Elder Neal A. Maxwell tells us as we choose to act like Jesus Christ, the more we will understand it is the only way to be our truly authentic selves:
“We are to become like Jesus virtue by virtue, experience by experience. There is neither another objective nor any other way. And once we desire to be instructed by him, we will see that it is so.”
Elder Maxwell is saying as we take on his attributes “we will desire to be instructed by Him” and thus become more and more like our Mentor–a virtuous upward circle.
As we teach our children about His character traits, have them imagine someone who was perfect in all of them, but grew from “grace to grace” as a child.
“And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.”
The Savior encourages us to be like Him but we don’t want to overwhelm our children with the same task of perfection. This critical teaching is the growth mindset, of starting and failing and learning from our mistakes. This teaching can be dispensed slowly over many years so it is a natural way of being. It would be hard to instantly have character. It’s like learning anything–we try, we fail, and then we try harder. J. Reuben Clarke who was in the First Presidency in the 1930’s also encourages us to be like Christ, with one of God’s reasons that He sent His Son :
“It is the ultimate design and purpose of our Divine Creator that we develop a Christlike character.”
Our Divine Creator would not ask us to do this if we weren’t able to do it. If it is His “ultimate design and purpose” it should be ours as parents. My mother exemplified the Savior so well when we broke something. She always encouraged us to bring the broken object and validated us by saying, “I am so glad you came to me. I would much rather you told me the truth about what you broke. Isn’t it a relief to be honest with me?” It was such a relief! Her encouragement meant we could talk openly and I wasn’t afraid or ashamed. I was always so grateful and relieved of such a burden of guilt after these episodes. In this way she was encouraging us to be honest by being gentle and affirming–modeling these qualities of Jesus Christ.
As we model His attributes our children will attach to us more and also want to be more like the Savior because we will tell them we are trying to be like Him. Another virtuous upward circle!