Like many LDS teenagers in Africa, I was one of a handful of Church members in my high school. I became accustomed to sharing my beliefs with my friends, and I was known for having a certain set of standards. Fortunately for me, I don’t remember ever being ostracized for being different. If anything, I was respected and admired. My friends looked to me as a sort of anchor during an often difficult and confusing period of their lives.
One day during the final year of high school, I joined a group of friends to watch a movie. As we bought our tickets, the movie poster did not give an indication of the movie rating. Somewhat naively, I decided to buy a ticket anyway in the hope that the movie would be above-board.
Two minutes into the movie, I realised my hopes were in vain. The opening scene was shockingly vulgar. As I covered my eyes with my hands, I realised there was only one thing to do: leave. I was near the end of a long line of people, some of whom I was keen to make a favourable impression on. There was no way to make an inconspicuous exit. But there was also no way I could sit through that movie and be true to myself.
With a racing heart I leant over to a friend and whispered, “I’ll see you outside.”
Grabbing my popcorn, I picked my way in the inky darkness past the long row of friends. Back in the light of the ticket office, I wondered how to spend the next few hours as I awaited the others. To my surprise, I soon heard steps behind me.
One of my friends appeared, smiling. “I didn’t like that movie either,” she said. Thirty seconds later, we heard a second pair of footsteps, and then a third. After a few minutes, a large group of us had formed.
I looked around me, incredulous. When I had decided to leave, there was no way I could have predicted that more than half of my group of friends were secretly hoping for a way to get out too.
Marianne Williamson said, “As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same.”
The same year, one of the friends in my circle decided to quit drinking alcohol. He didn’t tell anyone, but over the course of several months, he managed to successfully kick the habit. Later, he told me, “When things got tough, I would ask myself ‘what would you [Ruth Randall] do?’”
I was shocked by the amount of influence I had unknowingly had in his life.
The self-reliance blog tells us: “Integrity is contagious. When we live according to its principles, others catch on—especially our families. One of the greatest blessings we can give them is to live a life of integrity and teach them to develop it too.”
Years later as a mother, I am trying to live by those principles. In some ways it’s become much harder to be a perfect example of integrity, because my audience (my kids) watch me constantly, every moment of every day. They’re not only sensitive to my actions, but my attitudes, moods, and even my motivation. My “integrity” needs to reach further than what I do as an example. It needs to become what I am.
The blog teaches that integrity is the key to personal improvement.
“We worship weekly and renew our covenants when we partake of the sacrament, repenting of any sins we have committed during the week. But if we aren’t carefully examining our lives and making steps to improve, then we repeat the same mistakes over and over. It takes personal integrity in order to progress.”
Helaman 3:35 provides me with a personal tool kit for applying principles of integrity and self-improvement.
The Nephites, at this point a righteous group of people, “did fast and pray oft, and did wax stronger and stronger in their humility, and firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ, unto the filling their souls with joy and consolation, yea, even to the purifying and the sanctification of their hearts, which sanctification cometh because of their yielding their hearts unto God.”
As I yield my heart unto God, I find that not only can I better be true to myself, but that my “self” also becomes more and more like the God I am heeding.