Sunday, May 13, 2012

Secure your own mask

There's an object lesson in every flight you take.

After rushing to the airport, checking bags, getting boarding pass, making your way through security and finally boarding the plane, you're settled in your seat with your personal item stowed under the seat in front of you. The flight attendant stands and demonstrates how to use the oxygen mask if the cabin loses pressure in an emergency.

The recorded voice says, "Please secure your own mask before helping another."

We'd do well to apply this in our own lives.

As mothers, wives, sisters, daughters, friends, and visiting teachers we want to be busy helping others. It's part of our religion, baked into each lesson and talk...serve one another, if you love me keep my commandments, charity never faileth and so one. And it's a good thing.

But every day we should secure our own mask, taking in the things that feed our own souls, that strengthen our spirits, that build our own reserves, that make it possible to give and love and serve one another.

This is not selfish, it's self-care.

The commandment is to love our neighbor as ourselves. Meaning we have to love and care for ourselves first before we are able to care for others.

The admonition to secure our own masks is even more important when "emergencies" come in our own lives. To have in place the habits of prayer, fasting, turning to the scriptures for answers and comfort, and relying on the atonement of Jesus Christ prepares us for those hard times, and it allows us to know how best to help others.

To take the metaphor a bit further, we can't breathe in the oxygen for another. Everyone needs their own mask, their own supply of hope and faith and healing.

That is found in Jesus Christ, His atonement and His gospel.

We can and should encourage all to come to Christ and find what they need.

This promise is to us all in our own hard times:

It is Jesus Christ who gave us breath and will hold our hand and keep us (Isaiah 42: 5-6).

It is He who is aware of our most difficult trials and is our greatest safety and hope (Cook, 'Hope Ya Know, We Had a Hard Time')

Let us secure our own masks before helping others. Let us remember who gives us breath and will hold our hand and keep us. Let us encourage others to secure their own masks.


Photo credit: Craig Damlo


  1. I have to say that I always wince during this part of the pre-flight routine. And I have to say, I take these things seriously: I always take out the flight safety card and follow along. I count the number of rows I would have to go to find an exit row. And I do a quick little rehearsal in my mind about what I would do in an emergency.

    But when it comes to the phrase about securing your own mask before assisting someone else, I dither. In particular, they always seem to show the image of an adult putting on a mask before assisting a child. It just seems wrong, and it seems to directly attack my manly image of the hero in such an emergency. Who wouldn't jump in front of a rushing car if they thought it would save their child, even if it meant sacrificing their own life? I mean, in the event of a loss of cabin pressure, can't I hold my breath longer than my 6-year old daughter sitting next to me?

    I understand why they would say that I have to put on my mask first. If I pass out trying to put a mask on my child, I help no one. But again, if I put my mask on first and if, for some reason, my child doesn't make it, I couldn't live with myself because of the guilt and shame I would feel.

    In the gospel context, I know the point you're trying to make, Ellen. We each need to work out our own individual salvation with the Lord. And if I'm not taking care of myself spiritually, I cannot help a loved one who is bent on a self-destructive pattern. But how do I deal with the pain and guilt and suffering if I obtain exaltation (because I was so focused on my own spiritual program) and my loved one doesn't?

    I readily admit I don't have the celestial perspective and vision that our Heavenly Father has, and that's one reason why I still struggle with this concept. But thanks for sharing...


  2. Thanks for your thoughtful reply, Troy. The irony is that when we take care of our spiritual and physical needs first, we have a greater capacity to serve those we love.

    Also, when it comes to loved ones, we trust that God has a plan for them just as we trust he has a plan for us and is right now working things out for good. I agree that not having God's perspective is challenging. The key is to, one, remain as committed to agency as God is (super difficult sometimes) and, two, be in tune to know when to love and help in healthy ways.



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