Okay. First of all...
I know my wife is a fantastic writer who has spent the last few years really honing her voice and speaking her mind on her blog, but I didn't know that a little plug from the wifey on her blog would SKYROCKET my last post in readership, leaving all previous posts in the dust. So, hi honey, and thanks! However, I told the rest of you in my first post that if I'm doing this for affirmation, I'm going to stop. So onward and upward we go. Hope you're enjoying so far.
So, in my last post I talked about those people you may recognize who seem kind of... stunted. I want to consider this a little further, because I don't think it only has to do with learning. I know some very simple (read, un-learned) people who are very soft-hearted and easy to be around. Conversely, I think that those dogmatic, impossible people are more than just bad learners. Learning is a little too cerebral - I suspect there's more to it than that.
Let's call it growth.
Think about the people you know who have lived the most beautiful lives. The kind of people who you just want to watch. Who you wish had written an interactive smartphone app that you could consult when going through life. What sort of things do they have in common? Likely something along the lines of humility? Authenticity? Wisdom?
Here's my theory: They never stop growing.
Every time I go through a hard time in my life, and there have been a few, I get this pesky realization. In my mind, as I'm going through something really challenging or difficult, this thought pops into my head that says, "you know, you can avoid this, and stay the same, or you can choose to Man Up, go straight through it, and grow."
I've really come to hate that voice.
I think growth is the sum of a few different parts. Let me hash them out:
1. Pain. Anyone ever woken up as a kid/teen with a wicked charlie horse in the middle of the night and had your parents call it a growing pain? During that particular incident it may have been your parents' bullshit excuse so they could make you stop crying and go back to sleep at 3am, but the principle remains. If you are NEVER UNCOMFORTABLE, you NEVER GROW. That's why exercise hurts. That's why relationships are either hard work or they fail. If you never go through anything painful, you will never grow. Now, some of you may be imagining people you know who you imagine must never have gone through any pain. That brings me to the next ingredient of growth:
2. Learning. Know what? Point number one's the crappy one. We never get to pick when something lousy happens. But now we're getting to the make-it-or-break-it point. I've met some people who have been through turmoil after turmoil. I think, 'man, that person should have some really deep character, considering the life they've gone through...' And yet, there's no substance. Point number two is the first step we have control over. You can choose to take a lesson from your pain. What could you have done differently? Did a work situation fail? Did a relationship end with regrets? You can choose to externalize all the blame, or you can take ownership of the part of it that is yours to own. Guess which option creates growth? Fact is, you're going to go through lousy crap throughout your life one way or the other. You may as well take some tools from the experience along the way.
3. Vulnerability. Are you an analytical person? Buckle up, cause here's where it starts getting tricky. Pain (ingredient 1) is out of our control. Learning (ingredient 2) is a conscious, cerebral decision. Now we start getting to the heeby jeeby feeling part. The most amazing people out there, in my opinion, are the ones who, despite deep pains in their life, are still willing to take a risk and share themselves with others. They still love, they still trust. Even after a lifetime of hurt. How do they do this? It's not because they're stupid, even though a look at the numbers on paper might suggest so. Here's why: they've done a cost benefit analysis of being alone and never being hurt, or being connected and being hurt again. And they've decided that, despite previous pains, it's STILL worth the risk. It takes a lot of courage to expose a soft heart to a hard world.
4. Belief in yourself. Here's the other side of vulnerability. And I daresay it might be the hardest part. Not only do the most exemplary people believe that other people are still worth loving and trusting; somehow, despite a life full of pains and regrets, they are still able to ACCEPT love and trust as well. They believe that they're WORTHY. You cannot truly give love if you can't accept love. Have you ever paid someone a compliment and known they didn't believe it?
In close relationships, a big part of loving the other person is being able to accept the love that they give you. Otherwise that person feels like they're just dropping $20 bills into a bottomless pit. Or paying a mechanic to repair a derelict car that is just going to break down again shortly. And guess what? When you've been through the ringer in front of the people closest to you it's really hard to face them again. It's really hard to accept their love again. Imagine making eye contact with your next door neighbour through your living room window while you're stark naked streaking for the laundry on the dining room table. Gonna be a little awkward next time you see them? You betcha. Now times that by a LOT. Continuing to believe that you're lovable is a very difficult task. We build up a lot of scar tissue over the years.
How do you go through the first two while keeping the second two intact? I don't friggin know, I'm not even 30! Ask this guy:
Maybe he knows.
I guess really, all I'm saying is, I don't really give a crap how much you paid for your vehicle. Or what your salary is (regardless of how obvious you make it). Or your status, or your... whatever. THIS is the scorecard I'm holding in my hand. I hope that, at the end of my days, people will see a man who fought hard to take the lesson away from the hardship, but also fought just as hard to keep his heart soft, despite it all.
Take a look at the scorecard in your hand. What are you keeping points on? I hope you win, but more importantly, I hope you're playing the right game.
I'd love to hear what you have to say. Please feel free to leave me a comment below.