In his landmark book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey tells us, “Whatever is at the center our lives will be the source of our security, guidance, wisdom, and power.” He lists some of the choices upon which people focus their lives, such as spouse, family, work, church, and he describes the problems with each.
In his observation, focusing on a spouse or other person too often leads to disappointment since no human being can ever meet all our needs. It also puts a relationship under stress. Being the center of another person’s universe is too demanding and too limiting for most people. Likewise, gaining our feelings of self-worth from our family may cause us to pressure them to live up to our expectations and make us look good.
Getting most of our self-worth from our job may cause us to neglect personal relationships or to use cutthroat competition in order to get ahead. Getting our self-esteem from church activity may lead to focusing on appearance. As Covey points out, church activity is not necessarily the same as spirituality.
Mormons tend to center their lives on marriage, family, and church. I think it’s safe to say that Mormons are highly attached to these concepts—even desiring relationships to extend beyond the grave. While Covey obviously supports Mormon values, he suggests centering our lives on principles rather than on people, organizations, possessions or pleasures. A person whose sense of worth is based on principles such as integrity and human dignity, as Covey suggests, or on the inherent worth of every sentient being, as Buddhism teaches, has a stable foundation not dependent on the behavior of other people.
While families will always need to deal with problems, I suspect our homes would be more peaceful if our ego wasn’t threatened by a family member asserting independence. I also think the Church would be more rewarding if we participated in order to enjoy a spiritual experience rather than to build our own self-esteem.