My first day in business school I learned about opportunity cost. It blew my mind. (I was young.)
The opportunity cost of a choice is the value of the best alternative forgone, in a situation in which a choice needs to be made between several mutually exclusive alternatives given limited resources.
Anytime you use a resource (time, money, energy) for one purpose, you are choosing not to use the same resource for any other purpose.
This is a concept far too few people (Mormons and not) understand. When they say yes to something, they are saying no to a bunch of other somethings. I’ll get back to this later.
My daughter Monica was recently featured in another Mormon Message. When it aired last week she asked me what I thought. Here are my thoughts in order:
- That babysitter is awesome. (Seriously.)
- I hope the mom still paid the babysitter. (Do not stiff my kid!)
- So that’s what the set looked like. (I sat outside on the grass during the filming and read a book.)
- The kickback is predictable and the kickers aren’t forgiving. (I should know, sometimes I’m one of them.)
- But seriously, why didn’t the mom ever say no?
It’s Not All About the Bass
When you have only a few minutes to tell a sweeping story, artistry is pushed to the limit. Backstory, dialogue, realism, emotion, it’s an epic assignment. So first, let me tell you what this Mormon Message did not preach:
- Good Mormon women make to do lists (on pink paper)
- Good Mormon women are blonde
- Good Mormon women are thin
- Good Mormon women must always do whatever they are asked
- Good Mormon women cannot have boundaries
- Good Mormon women always cook a hot breakfast
- Good Mormon women let their kids eat crap when the kids are bratty and acting entitled
- Good Mormon women braid hair
- Good Mormon women stop everything to finish school assignments for kids who “forgot”
- Good Mormon women drive vans
- Good Mormon women wear mascara
- Good Mormon women babysit everyone else’s kids, any time of day or night, no matter what
- Good Mormon women spend a lot of time doing crafty Pinterest projects
- Good Mormon women must make dinner whenever notified at the last minute
- Good Mormon women (particularly good stay-at-home Mormon women (which, come on, are really the only good Mormon women anyway…)) must have ample healthy and tasty leftovers to supply their wayward career sisters with impromptu picnic lunches
- Good Mormon women don’t work because it makes them self-centered
- Good Mormon women must only say “shoot” if frustrated
- Good Mormon women never buy takeout for families with new babies
- Good Mormon women never take an uncooked casserole to a neighbor and ask them to put it in the oven themselves
- Good Mormon women always do a “breath check” to ensure good oral hygiene
- Good Mormon women dump long held plans with their cousins to do whatever they are asked
- Good Mormon women keep their eyes open during family prayer
- Good Mormon women must be martyrs
- Add your own! It’s fun!
The lesson of this short video is something different.
Real people aren’t perfect. Somedays we try really hard; somedays we don’t. Somedays we try to help one person and end up hurting another. Somedays we accomplish a lot and others are spent spinning our wheels. Sometimes we prioritize well and sometimes it’s a disaster. Sometimes we try the wrong way. Sometimes bad things happen that are out of our control and many times our wounds are (largely) self-inflicted. Sometimes we over-schedule, really thinking we can do all the things we commit to, and are incredibly wrong.
Some questions and possible answers about the fictional mom’s decisions:
- Should the mom have made the second breakfast? I almost never do, but in some cases I would. (Heck, I rarely make the first, but…)
- Should the mom have helped her son with his “forgotten” project? I try to let my kids experience the consequences of their choices, but sometimes I pull out all the stops and help rescue them.
- Should the mom have agreed to babysit the little girl? Given the outcome shown in the video, probably so.
- Should the mom have met her sister for lunch or told her she was busy? Sometimes I don’t meet the requests of my siblings, sometimes they take priority. (Sometimes even when the situation seems trivial.)
- Should the mom have agreed to take dinner to the family? I almost never agree to last minute requests and, instead, request a date that works. But sometimes I do change my plans.
- Should the mom have missed a previously scheduled event with her cousin? Although generally the first commitment takes priority, I have sometimes allowed newer commitments to override older ones.
In other words, for this particular mom on this particular day, perhaps everything she chose to do was the right thing to do. And even if it wasn’t, it reflects the reality we all deal with: even trying our best, we aren’t perfect.
I Assume You Love Yourself Because You Do
The scriptures tell us “love they neighbor as thyself.” Hundreds of times I’ve heard this described thusly: “we must love ourselves in order to love others.” But it doesn’t say that. Instead, the scripture assumes self-love. The scriptures tell us to use the love we do have for ourselves as a model for how we should love others.
In the same way, a realistic story can only be told by assuming some of the things that are generally (or at least often) true for those who will hear it. So, given all the truths about our imperfections, given the fact that we are sometimes miserably ill-equipped and unprepared and hopelessly bungle things, the message is that we are still acceptable to God. And not just that! Even with all the mistakes, we still do more good than we realize.
Sometimes the message is to say no. Sometimes the message is to prioritize. Sometimes the message is opportunity cost. But not today.
In case you missed the real message here — the one that is resonating with so many people even if it’s not resonating exactly, specifically with you — is this:
Many of you think you are failures. You feel you cannot do well, that with all of your effort it is not sufficient.
We all worry about our performance. We all wish we could do better. But unfortunately we do not realize, we do not often see the results that come of what we do.
You never know how much good you do.