Everything’s a Lesson

Maybe a year ago, I heard the phrase, “The lesson you’re teaching is the one you need to learn.” Well, CRAP.

And then I saw it written somewhere shortly after I heard it. DAMN.

And then, again, a few days later. Clearly, ignoring this recurring phrase wasn’t an option.

“The lesson you’re teaching is the one you need to learn.”

I’ve always liked to teach. At eight, we called it “being bossy.” At 43, let’s call it, “coaching,” shall we?

To illustrate this, if we’re friends, I have asked you at least once, “May I give you an assignment?” Or, if we’re very close, I didn’t ask. I just said, “Do this.” So, upon hearing the message “The lesson you’re teaching is the one you need to learn,” three times in about as many days, I began to listen to what was coming out of my mouth as a lesson for me in addition to a lesson for someone else. As it turns out, sometimes the lesson was for me instead of someone else.

To be clear, never once have I given an assignment because I thought you were doing it wrong. Never because I thought you were behaving badly. Never because I was disappointed in you. If I’ve asked (or told) you to take on an assignment, it’s because you have honored me with your personal truth. You’ve let me behind the curtain of your life, and let me see backstage. I’m so, so lucky that some of you let me just hang out back there. Like, all the time! And, when I hear your frustration or pain or perplexity, and I think that something I’ve read or another perspective might ease your heart, I tell you the thing I believe will provide some peace.

Among these that I’ve tried to teach those I love are the following things, all of which are absolutely true.

  • It’s OK to think different things than your parents think.
  • You’re the only one holding you back. You have all the tools and skills for that dream!
  • You know more than you think you do.
  • You’re forgiven.
  • You’re not responsible for anyone else’s emotions.

Notice that these things aren’t critical, mocking, or anything less than loving. And, I still feel happy that I’ve been able to share these things with friends. But, where have I been that these good, generous, true lessons have only been for other people? Seriously. Did I delude myself into thinking I had these things worked out for myself? Maybe. Maybe so.

The one that I’ve said the most is “You’re not responsible for anyone else’s emotions.” And, in my head, and out of my mouth, I have known this for years. However, once I heard the message to learn what I was teaching, I clearly didn’t know this at all. I began in earnest to learn this lesson for myself. As a pleaser and a peace-lover, it wasn’t easy to let go of trying to fix everything so that everyone was happy and at rest. Not only is it impossible to fix everything so that people are happy, but it’s also just a REALLY BAD IDEA.

In the next several essays, I’m going to explore the stuff I’ve been learning and the ways I’ve stumbled through the lessons, sometimes falling on my face. Hard. But I think it’s worth writing about the stuff I’ve learned by listening to the Still Small Voice that clearly said, “The lesson you’re teaching is the one you need to learn.” And how things emerged from the mist and became clear when, for a few seconds at a time, I was able to shove myself out of the way enough to see them.