What is "Giving Up"?

In 2010, Sara Jarman decided to give voluntary and charitable service for her Church in Vladivostok, Russia. For a year and a half, she was isolated from family, friends, and her previous life – for the good cause of serving others. In Sara’s religious community, serving a mission is an honorable act. However, even the best of our intentions do not guarantee the bliss we might have imagined.

On the first day of her arrival to Vladivostok, Sara found herself being yelled at by strangers, accused of being a CIA agent, and mockingly called a “Yankee.” Day after day she was scorned and belittled by the very people she was trying to serve. “While I met people who did love me, the majority of the people were very harsh towards me,”—says Sara reminiscing on her challenge at that time.

Not long after her arrival, Sara began to rapidly lose weight. Over the course of a few days, it became increasingly difficult for her to continue her service with the same pace she initially had. Nevertheless, Sara continued to maintain hope and believed that things would get better. There are moments in life when it’s worth trying to change your circumstances for the better and persist; however, in some situations there comes a point when the best thing to do is to simply accept the things the way they are and move on.

Sara’s hope in rapid healing did not bring an immediate result. She plunged deeper into sickness:

At one point I became bound to my bed because my stomach hurt so much. Not only was it physically wearing, but I also was extraordinarily distraught and worn out emotionally. When I was told that I needed to go home to the U.S for medical help, I felt like a failure for not finishing what I hoped and dreamt of. I felt like people in my community would think I was a wimp for “giving up,” even though circumstances were out of my control. I knew that no matter what I would say, people would develop their own opinion on my situation and there was nothing I could do about it. I felt judged.

Coming back without finishing what she and others looked forward to resulted in harsh judgments, rumors, and hurtful comments towards Sara. This was no longer just an issue of physical health; there was now deep emotional trauma.

Sara Jarman1
Sara in Russia

It has been over two years since Sara was in the Far East of Russia, but she still continues to struggle with repercussions of her experience there. She still gets sick regularly from the bacterial infection that she developed in Russia. She still feels a latent sadness from the thought of not becoming a finisher. In her own words, Sara describes her feeling this way: “I feel like I missed opportunities and experiences that would have changed my perspective on Russia for the better. I have regrets in this regard, in that I feel like my mission was never really complete. And at times I still feel like a failure, because I did not finish my mission like my other peers.”

Years passed, the sadness still knocks on the door of her heart, yet Sara chooses to not let it in.

Day by day Sara chooses to move forward. She chooses to not let her past experience determine her life; she chooses to not let anyone or anything ruin her day without her permission:

Moving forward for me turned out to be a longer journey than I had expected. Moving forward for me means taking every day as it comes, and not looking too far into the future. While daily planning is essential, I also recognize the need to be okay with whatever unforeseen circumstances arise. When we accept that we might not be able to change our immediate circumstances, (especially when they are out of our control) we can at least try and be at peace with who we are. When we focus on who we are, rather than what others think about us, our external circumstances will often take care of themselves. People will always have an opinion about us – whether good or bad. I have learned that in order to be truly happy, I have to push judgmental opinions of others aside and move on in my life.

 

There are times in life when we have to do what others might see as “giving up.” Yet, this “giving up” is a character-building victory over the struggles of immediate failure. As a famous Russian novelist, Anton Chekhov, put it: “Any idiot can face a crisis – it’s day by day living that wears you out.” It’s day by day moving forward that determines your victory, regardless of how others see it.

20 Replies to “What is "Giving Up"?”

  1. Sara: You are a beautiful, beautiful young lady and there are so many of us that are with you 100%! Thank you for your amazing courage and your wonderful positive attitude. You are a richly blessed daughter of God. Susan Smith

  2. Sara, Thank You for serving our Heavenly Father, you did serve with all your heart and you should be proud of all your efforts. We all need to do some act of kindness and serving everyday. Thanks for posting this, it helps me to be more kind and loving to everyone. You have a wonderful life ahead!!!!!!

  3. Thank you for this. I’ve been home 10 years and still need to hear this. Coming home early was hard. It’s still hard; but, I’m grateful for your perspective.

    1. It’s been 18 years since I came home early. And while I have served diligently in many callings and have only grown more valiant in the faith through the years, I still carry bits of scarring from my decision to come home. I am proud of my service, but don’t quite qualify to be counted among the “returned missionaries.” It was even removed from my membership records until I requested it be added back on. The savior heals all wounds. And perhaps those twinges of hurt I carry are to serve as a reminder of his atoning grace, and as a reminder that, through him, I can do and overcome hard things.

  4. My heart goes out to this dear sister who despite her efforts to share the gospel with those around her, was thwarted from doing so, by those who she had come to serve. And then to suffer from illnesses brought on by her feelings of despair and inadequacy, only added to her dilemma. While she was at her lowest, it is hard to believe that even when she was released from her mission, fellow church members did not or could not understand her reasons for early release. We are all different and this sister wants to move forward in her life. Please help her in any way you can to help her come to terms with the mission she was unable to complete honorably. She is still a child of God and it will be up to each individual to accept her for that very reason.

  5. As long as you are a active member, you still can serve the Lord in your ward calling, read your Patriachal blessing..

  6. My son came home early from his mission, after serving 18 of his 24 months, due to a knee injury… It affected all of us, but mostly his confidence in himself… He has been home just over two months now and is finding it hard to adjust to regular life at home… In our hearts we know he’s served a full mission, as he served with all his heart.

  7. Sarah, you did serve an honorable mission that was cut short by illness. Do not feel that you did not meet the requirements of a mission that was served by your peers whom enjoyed good health for the most part. Many missionaries acquire different health problems by serving in lands foreign to their home country which shows up later in life and they do not let this affect their later lives. Please do not allow the feelings of those that do not understand affect your life in the Church and continue to serve the Lord. Many blessings are yours.

  8. Sara, you are an amazing Sister! It does not matter what other people think. You did what you were called to do! Ask Heavenly Father what he wants you to learn from your experience. Hold your head up high and put one step in front of the other. Not many people get to experience Russia, especially in the way that you did. Pray for the people in Russia that their hearts can be softened and pray that the missionaries serving there can find those the Lord has prepared. You are not a failure, you were given an opportunity and an avenue to learn of a people who doesn’t have the happiness or the freedoms we enjoy. Have you ever thought of starting some kind of project (whether church related or not) that could help the people of Russia. As you put prayerful thought and action, you will always find people to help you!

  9. No matter what happened out there i am so proud of you for trying & to the other missionaries who had to leave early. I admire your courage & effort to serve the Lord. It is not easy serving a mission. I am a return missionary. Missionary work was hardest thing i’ve ever done in my life but yet it was my happiest time. who cares about what others think. The Lord knows you tried your best to serve. We all should be very proud of who you are & your courage even after now. The Lord blessed you to be strong.We need to be strong like you. I admire for your courage to stand up for yourself & your example. Even if you didn’t get to finish i am sure that you touched many lives out there. just be yourself. May the Lord bless all of you, the missionaries who are serving now & who would be serving in the future. Oaknon Johnson.

  10. Sara you are amazing, and should be proud of yourself everyday. All though you feel you did not finish what you started, you went out there, to serve heavenly father and to teach others the same. You are not a failure and should never ever let that thought pass through your beautiful mind again, you set out to do what you thought was best for you, but maybe it wasn’t. Only one man knows that and he is eternally grateful for your service, sacrifice, and unconditional love of him and his children. I would be proud to call you my daughter, just as heavenly father is proud to do the same. You have the rest of your life to teach the gospel to those who haven’t had the privilege of knowing or hearing about it. Lots of luck to you and your earthly endeavors.

  11. You are not alone, Sister Jarman; I was sent home on a medical leave as well, after only six weeks in the MTC. The feelings which you describe have been felt by myself as well. Thankfully, I was called to serve as a ward missionary for nearly four years, but despite the joys which this calling brought me, I still wish with all my heart that I could go back and finish what I started then.

    What helps me to combat negative feelings the best, are the spiritual experiences which I had in the MTC. Prior to this, I had never felt as close to God as I had when I was a missionary in the MTC; it was there when I received one of the most powerful spiritual experiences of my life, and this has proved to be an anchor for me during the storms of life.

    The most important things that I have learned from serving God is that He lives, that He loves us, and that He is aware of everything and will help us through life. We are never truly alone, Sister Jarman; you have my prayers, and the support of every missionary who reads this article. Good luck tovarishch, and I pray that everything will work our for you quickly. 🙂

  12. my son comes home early after 4 months of serving. As his mother I couldn’t have found this at a better time. I’m so grateful for the link on Facebook from LDS Missionaries–

  13. No matter how this dear sisters mission went, – she is still on the greatest mission of all, the mission of leaving heaven to live this mortal life with its joys, hardships, good times and bad times. May God bless her. Greetings from Denmark

  14. I would just like to offer these words of encouragement to you Sara. They are actually the words of the Savior and Judge of all. ” For I the Lord will judge all men, according to their works, according to the desire of their hearts. ” (D&C 137:9) And thank you by the way for your service to the Lord and I am sure he appreciates the time you consecrated to Him. Count your service as that which is akin to the widow’s mite which evoked from the Master such great praise. For she gave all that she had.

  15. Sara, you were called to serve a full-time mission and you DID. Be grateful for that opportunity. When I was younger there wasn’t anything that I wanted more than serving a full-time mission. I couldn’t due to severe depression. I am 45 now and just some months ago I started understanding why I couldn’t serve. There were other things the Lord wanted me do to do at that time, and only I could do them. You had the amazing experience, you served the Lord with all your heart and mind. Please be grateful for your obedience and sacrifice and His tender mercies.

  16. Thank you for all of your comments. They mean a lot to me. I actually found myself reading this article a few times this past week as life continues to be very difficult. I know though that through God all things are possible. So, I just press forth day by day. I know that at some point all of our experiences will one day makes sense. Thank you all again!

  17. Hello Sara! I understand now what you were going through. After my mission I changed so much. Before I was a funny girl who loved to party. Now I am so serious and sad! And I have no wish talking to people. And I got cancer. Though I finished my mission I still do not feel 100% that it was worth doing. And I am so sorry I couldn’t support you then. Missionaries should get psychological help more often while on mission and after it. Even Church society can be too pressing. Your attitude is right. Do not think of other people’s opinion. Wish you to be happy!
    Sister Tolmachova
    PS: Now I am much better:)

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