2000-10-19if.... here's this month's question:
If you were asked to share your wisdom with a child, which life lesson would you teach? What do you wish someone had told you?
love yourself. you are special, unique and valuable. there will never be anyone else like you in the world. you can do anything you want with your life: learn, laugh, explore, contribute, meditate, love, survive, flourish. and it is all possible if you love yourself.
loving yourself means giving yourself the room to grow. loving yourself means giving yourself room to fail, as well. if you don't fail, somewhere along the line, you're not giving yourself room to live. give yourself a chance to try something new. it may change who you are, for better or worse, but you'll discover something new about yourself along the way. and that's what makes getting out of bed in the morning worth it all.
there are others who will love you, too. family, friends, lovers will offer you love and support in your adventures. they are reacting to you, and how you play a part in their life. if you love yourself, there will be more there for them to love. self-love is not selfishness. it's an acknowledgement of your particular value, to yourself and to others. it's part of what makes you lovable. and these same people may change. they may leave you, they may let you fall, they may hate you. don't stop loving yourself. ever. never lose sight of your basic goodness and worth.
(hoping that that didn't sound too much like my own personal sermon on the mount...) at least, that's what i think is the single most valuable lesson anyone can learn. would i call it wisdom? ...yyyyyessss... i guess. let's go deconstruct the topic, shall we? ;) in rereading the question, it occurs to me there's a difference between lessons and wisdom. wisdom is your own to earn, the accumulation of many lessons. some days i don't feel very wise, despite a myriad of lessons. why would anyone entrust me with a tiny little person to teach anything important? and when we're kids, do we ever really listen to adults? thinking about my six year old niece, there's not any lesson i could offer her through the words above, even if she did listen. it's only by believing and living out that lesson yourself that you can offer anything; teach by example.
i did hear that lesson growing up, in one form or another. i was told that we're all good and kind and special, and so was i - from my parents, my grandmother, my grandfather, my minister, probably a teacher or two. i also watched people tear each other apart, some subtly and some not so subtly. i stood on the sidelines while people sniped at each other, taking their personal frustrations or disappointments out on another person. there were arguments, divorces, screaming matches, teary apologies, trust rebuilt. the two things didn't seem to match up. how can you be mean to someone you love? it just didn't make sense.
in part, that might have been what fed my competitive edge in school. tangible proof of success, like being named editor, or earning the director's title for a play, or racking up more awards than you know what to do with, seemed to be a way of measuring how good a person i was. and yet, i was never really sure of myself. would people like me? would they want to be my friend? i hated public speaking, and parties were sheer torture, as i was too nervous to just hang out and talk with people i didn't know well. what if i said the wrong thing? noone would ever talk to me again!
i've had to learn the hard way - actually, the only way - thru experience that you define your own self-worth, and that we all deserve to love ourselves. it's taken lots of questioning, and more than a few mistakes, like a divorce and some broken friendships. as i've grown into my own skin, the competitive edge has gone away. of course, i still want to do my best, and yeah, i like winning. hey, i'm a leo. 8) but the need to always be right, the need to beat someone else to the answer, the punchline, the finish line - that's not really there so much. there's not so much need to prove myself to everyone. and that change has brought about an interesting transformation. while i'm still not crazy about public speaking (dad, the day you suggested picturing everyone naked to make myself less nervous pretty much ruined my public speaking career), it's more fun now to chat people up. being more secure with myself allows me the chance to find out what other people are like, and the opportunity to share in their world.
it's never a lesson finished; it's always a lesson in progress, most likely til the day i die. and it's not so much learning that as continually relearning it. i got to hold and talk to twins a few weeks ago - at 5 months old, they are so pure and innocent. trite, but true. they haven't questioned themselves yet. they have no reason not to love themselves. we gradually lose it as we grow, and relearn that basic truth as we continue to grow. if i could bottle up all the hard times and good times i've had, the wisdom i've earned, and share it with my niece, would i do it? no, i don't think so. it might save her some heartache, but it wouldn't give her a chance to define her own life. rather, if i have a chance to be part of her life, i hope we grow to be friends, that i might be someone she could lean on, and that i always remember to tell her i love her.