Dear 100 Hour Board,
What should you do when your problems are all your own fault and you can't go back and undo them? I've been a terrible student all year for basically no good reason despite being blessed to have so many opportunities others don't. I desperately wish I could use a time turner and do it differently but I can't. So now what? When I have other problems that are partly caused by my own earlier stupidity how do I pray about them? I realize that we need to be sorry for doing the wrong thing, not sorry for having problems, and that being sorry isn't really sorry enough if you aren't changing. But then what? At this point I can't change retroactively. Is it inappropriate to ask for God's help in getting out of problems you knowingly caused yourself? I was sorry for making my mistakes all along, but didn't change much, so is it possible to be truly sorry now that I can't change those actions? Do you have any advice on what to do after you've permanently messed some things up and lost opportunities you could and should have pursued? Because it's my academic record and I'm going to lose a scholarship I feel like this is going to hang over my head for a really long time.
My first thought upon reading your question was the parable of the prodigal son. In the parable, the son knew full well that he was squandering his father's wealth and wasting his own time. All the bad things that happened to him were squarely his fault. And then it was only once he had reached such a low point that he was envying pigs for their food that he decided to go back to his father. Notwithstanding the fact it was the negative consequences of his own actions that prompted him to return, the prodigal son was sincere in his desire to change his ways and honor his father. He was truly sorry for how he had lived, and knew he wasn't worthy to even be called a son anymore. But the father's reaction upon seeing his son return wasn't rancor or anger; it was pure love and joy to have his son back.
This parable applies to you. Even though the situation you are in may be directly caused by your own actions that you willfully made, God still wants to help you with your current problems. He will still welcome you back.
As far as redeeming your academic record goes, talk to an academic adviser about what the best course of action is for you. And even though it's hard right now (believe me, I know), even if you end up taking out student loans, the world won't come to an end.
Good luck, my friend.
First of all, I'm sorry that you're going through a hard time right now. I've messed up scholarship opportunities and it always feels like like I'm making the same stupid mistakes over and over again. It's not ever fun to have to deal with that, but you'll get through it I promise. I'd just like to touch on two little parts of your question.
When I have other problems that are partly caused by my own earlier stupidity how do I pray about them?
Now, this is just my personal opinion, but I feel like the best way to pray about problems caused by our own stupidity is to pray about them like we pray about pretty much everything else. It's important to feel sorry for what we've done, but we shouldn't beat ourselves up. If we're sincere about our forgiveness we don't have to dwell on it all the time in our prayers. God knows our hearts perfectly and knows whether or not we're trying. He knows better than anyone else that we're human and that we make mistakes. Sometimes if I keep dwelling on the same mistakes then I create a feeling of distance and shame. If the only thing I pray about is my stupid mistakes, I'm not going to want to pray. Remember to talk about other things in your prayers such as things you're doing well, how you feel, expressing gratitude, and praying for other people.
Repenting on any level is hard and it requires sincerity, humility, patience, love, and hope. Several other writers recommend studying the Atonement and I wholeheartedly agree with them. Learning more about the Atonement will help you feel the love and help of God. I recently re-read the talks "Even as Christ Forgives You, So Also Do Ye" and "Until Seventy Times Seven" from this last General Conference and they reminded me of how willing God is to forgive us and how making mistakes is part of the Plan of Salvation. I highly recommend them! I also really enjoy listening to well sung hymns before or after praying to help me feel the Spirit.
What to do after you've permanently messed some things up and lost opportunities you could and should have pursued?
The best thing to do is learn from your mistakes and use them to help you you find new opportunities. The beginning of last semester my study habits were pretty bad and the first round of midterms kicked my butt. It was so bad that despite working super hard for the rest of the semester, my grades were low enough that it dropped my cumulative GPA by 0.14 points. Thankfully I kept my scholarship, but there were several scholarships that I was applying for that I just barely missed due to my GPA. It was hard to swallow, but I used it as motivation to be a better student this semester and find new opportunities.
I've applied myself really hard this semester and my GPA is on the up and up again. I've also found new opportunities to help pay for school. It takes hard work to fight back from any difficult mistake, but it can be done. You might not have access to the same opportunities, but the world is full of opportunities for those that go out and search for them.
I hope this helps. I'm sorry that you have to go through this, but if you keep doing your best things will turn out okay. Don't be afraid to ask for help from your friends and family either. You don't have to do this alone; you'll have plenty of help along the way. Just keep on keeping on. You've got this!
(General disclaimer that my opinions are personal and not representative of official Church opinion or anything)
Is it inappropriate to ask for God's help in getting out of problems you knowingly caused yourself?
Nope! As proof: consider the existence of the Atonement. Our sins separate each of us from God when we commit them, and that's pretty much the biggest problem we can possibly have. Furthermore, it's one that is always committed knowingly, because to my understanding without knowledge there's no sin (only transgression). If God set up the Atonement to help us out of the biggest problem that our knowing mistakes cause us, I doubt he's unwilling to help us with the smaller problems they create.
I was sorry for making my mistakes all along, but didn't change much, so is it possible to be truly sorry now that I can't change those actions?
Yep! Sounds like before you felt guilty and now you're trying to feel actually sorrowful. Now, I think our repentance probably needs to be commensurately greater when we've ignored the need to repent for a time period, but I'm confident we can still repent.
Do you have any advice on what to do after you've permanently messed some things up and lost opportunities you could and should have pursued?
I'd suggest some personal study and reflection on the grandness of the plan of salvation as a way to encourage yourself to move forward and seek new opportunities. It's true that some things have passed you by, but we know that someone who finally gets their life together right at the end of it is STILL eligible to inherit all that God has, even though they will have lost a lot of opportunities during their life. The parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard, expounded by Elder Holland in this talk seems particularly appropriate. We never want to disrespect the Atonement by following the mindset given in 2 Nephi 28:8 ("Eat, drink, and be merry; nevertheless, fear God—he will justify in committing a little sin...and if it so be that we are guilty, God will beat us with a few stripes, and at last we shall be saved in the kingdom of God.") However, it's clear that for those who are truly penitent - and it looks like you're trying to learn how to be - it's not too late to repent just because you knew you should've done it sooner. Repent and then seek for the opportunities that you do still have, which are many and great.
Because it's my academic record and I'm going to lose a scholarship I feel like this is going to hang over my head for a really long time.
It's true that this may impact your future for quite a while. However, as Elder Andersen assures us, "Repentance always means that there is greater happiness ahead."
I'm sorry that you're facing some difficulties, but I want to congratulate you on wanting to do better. There's a long time ahead of you in eternity for things to become more and more awesome.
Whether your problems are your fault or not, you still deserve help, and you're definitely still allowed to ask God for it. The point of repentance is asking for help with problems that we actively caused ourselves, and we're counseled to repent ALL. THE. TIME. in scriptures and Conference talks, so I would say Heavenly Father isn't too bothered when we ask Him to help us get out of the pit we dug for ourselves.
I also want to share with you this quote from King Benjamin, found in Mosiah 4:
17 Perhaps thou shalt say: The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just—
18 But I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent; and except he repenteth of that which he hath done he perisheth forever, and hath no interest in the kingdom of God.
19 For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind?
In other words, we're supposed to give to the poor even if we think it's their own fault that they're poor. If we as imperfect humans can do that for others, I think Heavenly Father can do that for us.