Beauty for Ashes

Angela Johnson's sculpture of the woman with an issue of blood.

Angela Johnson’s sculpture of the woman with an issue of blood.

At the beginning of his ministry, Jesus read from the scriptures, saying: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted…to set at liberty them that are bruised.” (Luke 4:22)

In the book of Isaiah, a similar scripture finishes with: “…to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness.” (Isaiah 61:3)

I believe in these scriptures with all of my heart.

In 2006, my chronic depression, which I had struggled with for years, had finally broken me. I had tried everything to fix my problems, but whatever I touched seemed to wither and rot. Darkness overwhelmed me like a tidal wave, destroying all of my hopes and dreams, and seemingly suffocating me in the process. Unable to see my way forward, I decided to end my life.

Miraculously, however, my family rescued me from my suicide attempt. But I still wasn’t grateful to be alive. Instead, I looked over my life and saw only the devastation caused by my depression. It seemed that all of my hopes for life had turned to cold, colorless ash.

In the hospital, I had a hard time seeing how things could get better—how I could be whole again. Not only was I still struggling with what felt like impenetrable depression, but I had also attempted to take my life. My whole neighborhood had seen the ambulance, my family had to pay for an expensive visit to the ER, and everyone I knew would look at me differently.

What I saw in myself was a broken mess; a life of complete failure.

But the love of my family was stronger than I could’ve imagined; it was like a light in my darkness, which pointed me toward a greater light—God.

A painting of the woman with an issue of blood by Howard Lyon.

The woman with an issue of blood by Howard Lyon.

In absolute humility, I took the broken pieces of my life to Him, and asked for His help. In many ways, I felt akin to the woman with “an issue of blood” mentioned in the New Testament. She had visited countless doctors and spent “all her living,” but just couldn’t be healed (Luke 8:43). In faith and desperation, she followed the Savior through a crowd, “touched the border of his garment,” and was made whole through her faith. (Luke 8:48)

I want to pause here and say something about faith. Faith asks us to do everything we can do, and then ask God to do what we cannot. Before the Savior raised Lazarus from the dead, He waited for everyone to do what they could do. Martha came to Jesus and told Him that Lazarus had died (John 11:21), He had the family lead Him to the grave (John 11:34), He asked the family to remove the stone which covered the grave (John 11:29), and then He raised Lazarus from the dead (John 11:43). Even after the miracle, Jesus asked those around help Lazarus by removing his bandages (John 11:44).

Certainly, Jesus had the power to do all of those things himself. He knew that Lazarus was dead, He knew where to go, He could’ve easily removed the gravestone, and He could’ve removed the bandages Himself as well—but He asked others to do what they could, and then He did what they could not.

In a similar way, we are asked to exercise our own faith by doing things that are within our power. For example, if we are suffering, we must seek help from friends and family, visit doctors or counselors, and prayerfully utilize all of our available options. As we do these things in faith, we are asking God to perform a miracle.

I have seen, through experiences too numerous and too sacred to share, God take the ashes of my life and miraculously turn them into something beautiful. I have marveled at His power to touch something broken, and not only make it whole, but better than it ever was before.

In a way that is almost unbelievable to me, I have seen God take my experiences with depression and turn them into something beautiful.

Truth be told, I never intended my blog to become what it is today. It started out as a way for me to learn about blogging and promote the videos I had been making. I’ve always wanted to write fiction, not personal stories from my own life. But on a few occasions, I’ve felt a strong “spiritual nudge” to write or talk about my experiences with depression and suicide. Introverted as I am, I’m always very hesitant to share my thoughts and feelings on such a sensitive subject—so whenever I do so, it is because I’m following those spiritual nudges.

A few months ago, my brother Sean and I were interviewed for a video on suicide prevention. I don’t like being in front of the camera unless it’s something fun or funny—and talking about depression and suicide are neither of those things, so this was a very hard thing for me to agree to.

"Lost and Found" by Greg Olsen

“Lost and Found” by Greg Olsen

The video shares the story of my suicide attempt, and tells how my brother’s love and support helped bring me back. The response to this video has been remarkable and overwhelming. Both my Facebook fanpage and my personal page have been filled with positive, uplifting comments and heartfelt messages. I have received text messages and phone calls from people telling me that the video is helping them (or someone they know) feel hopeful about the future.

I honestly can’t take credit for that video. I shared my story, yes. But the story is really about how my brother rescued me from the darkness of depression and helped me to move forward. And when I say ‘brother,’ I don’t just mean my brother Sean.

This video is a testament to me of how our elder brother, the Savior, can turn the ashes of our lives into something truly beautiful.

I hope that it helps you move forward with faith in your own life.

I offer my heartfelt gratitude to Quinn Orr for inviting me to take part in this video, and for working so hard to provide resources to those who are still struggling. I also want to thank Al Fox Carraway for her friendship during the whole process. My self doubt might’ve gotten the better of me had it not been for her encouragement.

And, as always, I’m profoundly grateful for the love and support of my wife, whose friendship lights the way through my ongoing battles with depression.

About these ads

Depression—A Battle Too Big to Fight Alone

A few months ago, my brother and I were asked to take part in a Mormon Message about suicide prevention. I hope that it is helpful to you. If someone you know is struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts, please continue to place your arm of love around them. Believe me, a seemingly small and simple act of love can change someone’s entire life.

From the video description: There is no easy solution for helping someone who has thoughts about ending their life. But there are some things we can do to reach out to them.

The most common sources of pain for someone having suicidal thoughts are feeling disconnected from other people, feeling like they’re a burden to others or that people would be better off without them. Coupled with the hopeless thoughts that things aren’t going to change, suicidal thoughts become risky.

For some, like Seth Adam Smith, the right words spoken by another can change a life. Seth’s depression caused him to attempt suicide. He was miraculously saved, and when he awoke, his older brother’s words changed everything. “You know, Seth,” his older brother said, “I almost lost my little brother. … I don’t think I’m going to go anywhere for a while.”

While it may seem too simple, sometimes words of comfort, support, and love can be life-changing for someone who doesn’t feel needed.

Sometimes those suffering with depression and suicidal thoughts don’t even need words. They just need someone to sit with them. They need someone to be there for them. They need to feel loved and valued.

Elder M. Russell Ballard counsels us not to judge, but to reach out. “It doesn’t mean you’re going to be able to heal people, … but we can have an impact in guiding people to some of the resources out there.” He reminds us that we can be one of those resources. “There is nothing more powerful than the arm of love that can be put around those who are struggling.”

Awesome/Terrifying News!

Webinar Facebook

So, I’m an introvert.

And if you know me really well, then you’ll know that I prefer gardening over socializing, and writing over speaking.

On top of that, I would much rather be behind the camera than in front of it.

With that in mind, my publisher—Berrett-Koehler Publishers—is hosting an “Ask Me Anything” webinar on Tuesday, October 7th at 6:30 pm PST / 9:30 pm EST.

I’m already sweating bullets…

It’s a free event and I’ve heard a rumor that you might win a free copy of my book if you register HERE >> http://bit.ly/sasamabk

I’m absolutely, totally terrified to do this (honestly, you’d think I were going skydiving or something!) but it should be tons of fun (in hindsight) and I’d love to finally “meet” all of you!

Again, it’s totally FREE and you can register right here >> http://bit.ly/sasamabk

I hope to see you there!

Ask Me Anything?

Ask Me Anything?

My Book Is Officially Published!!!

Your Life Isn't For You in Russia

Holding an advanced copy of my book on Red Square in Moscow (click on the image to order the book)!

Wow! Today is the day that my book, Your Life Isn’t For You, is officially published. It’s a wonderful, absolutely terrifying feeling!!

Here’s the description of my book from the publisher:

In this book, Seth Adam Smith expands on the philosophy behind his extraordinarily popular blog post “Marriage Isn’t for You”—which received over 30 million hits and has been translated into over twenty languages—and shares how living for others can enrich every aspect of your life, just as it has his. With a mix of humor, candor, and compassion, he reveals how, years before his marriage, his self-obsession led to a downward spiral of addiction and depression, culminating in a suicide attempt at the age of twenty. Reflecting on the love and support he experienced in the aftermath, as well as on the lessons he learned from a difficult missionary stint in Russia, his time as a youth leader in the Arizona desert, his marriage, and even a story his father read to him as a child, he shares his deep conviction that the only way you can find your life is to give it away to others.

Your Life Isn't For You

Click on the cover to order your own copy! :D

And here are some great reviews from some really awesome people:

“A brilliantly written and insightful book. Seth’s vulnerability and honesty are irresistible—pulling you in and opening your heart to the possibility of a life without walls.” —Michael J. Merchant, President, ANASAZI Foundation

“Seth’s amazing book illustrates a powerful and proven path to happiness and gently reminds us how easily we forget this profound truth: focusing on others brings the deepest joy.” —Lindsay Hadley, founder and CEO, Hadley Impact Consulting

“Seth Adam Smith has figured out some of life’s greatest lessons through remarkable life experiences and by listening to the great teachers that were placed in his path.” —Sterling C. Tanner, President and Executive Director, Forever Young Foundation

Order a copy today and let me know what you think!

The Utah Book Tour Begins!

Seth Interview FOX 13 Utah

This is a picture of me saying things about things. :)

Well, I’m currently on tour in Utah promoting Marriage Isn’t For You. I’m officially on my first book tour! Sometimes, I can’t believe it’s real because I’ve been dreaming about this for so long.

On Sunday, I was interviewed by Kelly Chapman on Fox 13 News. After that, Deseret News National Edition aired an interview they had with me on Friday (but don’t worry, I wore the same shirt).

Throughout the week, I’m scheduled to appear on a number of news programs. (Kim has even agreed to join me for one of them!) And on Friday and Saturday we will sign books at four Deseret Book stores. If you want, you can stop by and say ‘Hi.’ I’d love to get some selfies with you!

Friday, May 23, 2014 – Deseret Book in Salt Lake City @ 12:30-1:30pm

Saturday, May 24, 2014 – Deseret Book in Bountiful @ 11:00-12:30pm

Saturday, May 24, 2014 – Deseret Book in Midvale (Fort Union Blvd) @ 1:30-3:00pm

Saturday, May 24, 2014 – Deseret Book in Orem (University Pkwy) @ 4:00 – 5:30pm

Watch my interview with Deseret News below!

Marriage STILL Isn’t For Me — And Neither Is My Life

Marriage Isn't For Me

Me and Kim

Six months ago, I published an article on my blog entitled, “Marriage Isn’t For You.” It was based on some advice that my dad gave me before I got engaged. “Marriage isn’t for you,” he said. “It’s about the person you marry.”

Within days, the article received millions of views, was translated into over twenty languages, and went viral in places like China, Germany, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic.

The article was featured and discussed on the Today show, BuzzFeed.com, Daily Mail, Cosmopolitan, MSN Living, Yahoo, Deseret News, Today.com, KSL News, TheBlaze.com, HuffPost Live, HLN, and numerous radio programs. My wife and I appeared on a number of news programs, including Good Morning America and Fox & Friends.

After making some revisions to the article, Shadow Mountain Publishers turned it into a beautiful gift book. Within two days of its official publication (on May 6) the book skyrocketed to the top of the charts on Amazon.com, ranking from #640,650 to #989. It also reached #12 in the category of Marriage, and #13 in Love & Romance.

To this day, I still receive emails from people congratulating and praising me for the article. But amid all the praise, of course there are those who criticize the article. Many claimed that I didn’t know what I was talking about — that I was too young, too naive, or that I hadn’t been married long enough to give advice.

And you know what? They’re right. Kim and I just celebrated our second anniversary. So when it comes to giving marriage advice, I’m certainly not the most experienced or qualified person to speak.

But here’s the thing: It wasn’t my advice that went viral; it was my dad’s. And I wasn’t the person who exemplified the advice; it was my wife who did that. If praise is to be given to anyone, it should be to them. I’m not the hero of this story, and I don’t pretend to be.

However, there has been one repeated criticism of the article that I simply cannot accept. Immediately after my article was published, dozens of other articles sprang up insinuating, to one degree or another, that marriage and your life are purely for you — for your benefit and pleasure. I will tell you right now that that is a lie — probably one of the most damaging lies.

This kind of lie breeds selfishness. And the more selfish we become, the easier it is to fall into habits of lying, cheating, stealing, and breaking promises. Because if each of us is the most important person in our own little world, then why would we ever choose to deny our personal desires?

Some time ago, I embraced this lie. When I did so, I started living a life of addiction, self-centeredness, and isolation so severe that it culminated in a suicide attempt.

But during my recovery I came to understand that my life wasn’t purely my own; I shared it with my family and friends. So I began to let those people back into my life, and the love and friendship that we shared was liberating.

Albert Einstein once said, “A person starts to live when he can live outside himself.”

I believe that. Marriage and love are truly not for you. Neither of them can exist without involving people other than yourself.

If you want to live a rich, full, abundant life, you must love other people—love them with your whole heart and soul.

As my wife Kim said in one of our interviews, “You never lose by loving. You never lose out by choosing to love somebody else.”

It’s a Phe-BLOG-enon! I’m Publishing ANOTHER Book!

Hanging out at the top of Shadow Mountain!

Hanging out at the top of Shadow Mountain!

Contract signed, sealed, and delivered! I am publishing two books this year! Berrett-Koehler will publish one of my books in the fall, and now Shadow Mountain will be publishing another book in June. For a kid who has wanted to publish books his whole life, this entire thing is a miracle—a serendipitous miracle. A phenomenon started by a simple blog post. A phe-blog-enon!

But then again, it really didn’t start with the blog post. It all started with Kim. In a paradoxical way, supporting her dreams has helped my own dreams come true.

You may think I’m just being sentimental (which I won’t deny) but allow me to tell you how this is true:

Had Kim and I not gotten married, we never would have moved to San Francisco. Initially, I didn’t want to go, but Kim wanted to live there to pursue her career in theater and I wanted to be supportive of her passion, so I somewhat reluctantly agreed.

Had we not moved to San Francisco, I never would have taken that internship at Berrett-Koehler (because Kim encouraged me and supported me). Had I not been an intern at Berrett-Koehler, I never would have met the people at Shadow Mountain Publishing (because they visited to exchange ideas). Had I not continued working at Berrett-Koehler, I never would have started ForwardWalking.com (because Jeevan at BK inspired me to “start a movement” of good things). Had I not started ForwardWalking.com, I never would have written “Marriage Isn’t For You.”

Then, when the blog post became a “pheblogenon,” several publishing companies and agents (including Berrett-Koehler and Shadow Mountain) contacted me about the possibility of publishing a book.

And now, as a direct result of my marriage to the girl of my dreams—and supporting her dreams—my own dreams are coming true. Marriage is pheblogenal!

As for what the book is about…I’ll let you know sometime around June…. :)

It’s Official: My Book Will Be Published!!!

I’ve dreamed about this day since I was ten.

And now, after several weeks of discussion and refinement, I was just given the green light: Berrett-Koehler Publishers has formally agreed to publish my book sometime in the Fall of 2014!

Berrett-Koehler-Publishers

Apart from telling you that the book will be non-fiction, I’d really like to keep its message under wraps until it gets closer to publication (no one likes spoilers). However, I think I’ve been mentally writing this book for the past seven years. So, you might find a few of the ideas of the book sprinkled throughout this website…

Honestly, publishing a book has been my dream for so long. I can’t believe it’s actually happening! I’m so grateful to my friends at Berrett-Koehler. Their faith and trust in my abilities inspired me to start the movement of ForwardWalking.com and look at all of the wonderful madness that’s followed! Thank you, BK!

While I feel an armada of ideas and excitement coursing through my body, I think I’m going to take a couple of hours to feel like David After Dentist—but in a good way! (“Is this real life?”)

My Wife is a LITERAL Work of Art

My good friend (and talented artist), Howard Lyon, recently finished a beautiful, new painting.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that he had painted a portrait of my wife!

"Forget-Me-Not" by Howard Lyon

“Forget-Me-Not” by Howard Lyon www.HowardLyon.com

Some time ago, Kim and I had worked with Howard on another project. He used a photograph from the shoot to create this angelic image of an angel woman.

Of the painting, Howard said this: “The goal for me was just to paint something beautiful…Kim’s expression was very subtle, but conveyed a lot of emotion.  I tried to catch some of that.  She could be longing to be held in the memory of a loved one, or remembering a loved one.”

The painting—and the woman who inspired it—immediately reminded me of this quote from the novel Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens:

“You are part of my existence, part of myself. You have been in every line I have ever read…You have been in every prospect I have ever seen since – on the river, on the sails of the ships, on the marshes, in the clouds, in the light, in the darkness, in the wind, in the woods, in the sea, in the streets. You have been the embodiment of every graceful fancy that my mind has ever become acquainted with. The stones of which the strongest London buildings are made, are not more real, or more impossible to be displaced by your hands, than your presence and influence have been to me, there and everywhere, and will be.”

Truly, my wife is “part of my existence, part of myself.”

And now she is literally a work of art (although she was one long before this painting was created)!