Each time we’ve traveled to London, I’ve loved maneuvering my way through the city using their underground transit system — The Tube. The captivating announcement with a quaint British accent reminds riders to “Mind the Gap” before entering or exiting the train. These three simple words bring new meaning to how we should all proceed on our journey.
Sometimes there was a visible gap between where the platform started and the train ended or a step up or down to the platform. To me, these gaps represented the various stumbling blocks we can fall captive to if we are not mindful as we move along in life.
A stumbling block is an “obstacle or impediment,” which if we are not intentional, can trip us up or cause us to lose our footing. Life is full of these impediments, and being aware can sometimes help us avoid them.
Here are a few gaps to be mindful of
As I’ve considered the phrase “mind the gap,” I’ve come up with a few stumbling blocks that can impede our growth.
- Grief and fear can paralyze us from taking action, making choices, and living our life.
- The most important things seem insurmountable when we are caught up in busyness, become overly tired, or allow feelings of “overwhelm” to dominate our thoughts.
- Thoughts like “You don’t fit in,” “Your different,” or “You aren’t enough” can trip us up and hold us back.
- Feelings of entitlement can distract and redirect our desires.
- Allowing negative emotions, criticism, and comparison to fuel discouragement.
These pressures are common conditions in mortality, but Satan works hard to isolate us and tell us we are the only ones experiencing them.”
Even more important than avoiding these common stumbling blocks is to recognize we all face them — no one is immune. Do any of those challenges resonate with you? I thought I’d discuss three of the most common stumbling blocks we all deal with on a regular basis.
One of the most critical challenges is recognizing the difference between happiness and pleasure. Imitations are deceiving. I remember walking through New York City and stopping at various street vendors. They all had their imitation bags and knock-off gear. Part of me was drawn into the look and feel of something artificial.
We live in a time of “knock-offs,” where there is profit in trying to sell the consumer on a fake imitation of the genuine article. If we pursue that which is elusive and slippery we can be, in the end, left with nothing.
“In this day of counterfeits, adulterations, and base imitations, the devil is busier than he has ever been in the course of human history, in the manufacture of pleasures, both old and new; and these he offers for sale in a most attractive fashion, falsely labeled, ‘Happiness.’ …He has learned the tricks of the trade, and knows well how to catch the eye and arouse the desire of his customers.
He puts up the stuff in bright-colored packages, tied with tinsel string and tassel; and crowds flock to his bargain counters, hustling and crushing one another in their frenzy to buy.”
James E Talmage, Jesus the Christ p. 247–48
Instead of reaching for simple imitations, I’ve realized I have to do the work to create an authentic and happy life. It doesn’t come from chasing after the latest shiny object, but by being intentional in the way I spend my time, money, and energy.
It has been said “Comparison is the thief of joy,” and the point is well worth considering. When we compare we often contrast the worst version of ourselves to the best we see in others. Social media tends to puts a seemingly positive spin on others. What we don’t see is their unfolded laundry, the sink full of dishes, and dirty bathrooms.
Don’t hold yourself up to some ambiguous standard of perfection. We all are unique in our journey with our own set of highs and lows. Instead of becoming immobilized by comparison and perfection, why not choose to focus on progress?
Comparing your life, abilities, relationships, or even your imperfections with anyone else is one of the biggest stumbling blocks we face. As my third-grade teacher used to say: “Keep your eyes on your own paper.” I think maybe she had something in her reminder.
We have all experienced the feeling of betrayal from being deceived. How often do we consider our level of honesty with ourselves? Does it seem as if your misfortune is a result of someone else’s actions? Do the burdens of your consequences not seem to add up? Self-deception is a stumbling block and a very real trap. It can blind us to the true cause of problems, and impede our ability to perceive situations accurately.
Justification, rationalization, lying, blaming others, and failing to take ownership of our actions are just a few symptoms of self-deception. Ultimately, this type of deceit can catch us in a kind of dual life. One is based in reality while the other is reflective of the person you try to show to others.
Rather than getting tripped up in self-deception, try keeping a clear unbiased view of how you live your life and how you respond to those around you. Be honest and loyal to who you are and what matters most.
Stumbling blocks are hard to avoid. Have you ever hiked along a trail full of large rocks and small boulders? The easiest way to move through them is to step directly on top of each stone rather than around and in between. Abolitionist Henry Ward Beecher suggested the idea of stumbling blocks becoming “stepping stones to a noble character and Heaven.”
Stumbling through life’s problems isn’t the easiest route. As we mind the gap, watching for obstacles that might impede our growth, we are better able to side-step possible setbacks. Think about your possible stumbling blocks and consider how you might turn them into stepping stones.
One time we were riding the train in the Atlanta airport and I noticed the gaps between the train and platform — similar to the ones we had seen in London. The biggest difference was there weren’t any cautious reminders about watching your step or minding the gap.
As I went to exit the train the wheel of my carry on bag lodged itself in the gap between the train and platform. It was not pretty as I flew over my suitcase in slow motion realizing there wasn’t any way to save myself from the fall. My shins, hands, and ego were a little bruised as I glanced back at the other travelers on the train.
Rather than falling apart on the floor in the middle of the airport I bounced back up and continued on my way. Instead of thinking of how embarrassed I might have been, my family and I found the humor of the situation.
Next time you find yourself navigating a stumbling block, try considering how you can learn, grow, and become the type of person you were meant to be.