Lessons Learned

Lessons Learned

“When you finally learn that a person’s behavior has more to do with their internal struggle than it ever did with you? you learn grace.”

That is a critical point. We never know what troubles others are dealing with alone. And therefore we cannot judge them, nor should we.

Judging others is one of my gravest faults.

Originally, growing up, it was the family culture. Unfortunately, it was traditional to start talking about our guests as soon as they left the party. Those who were still around were special and not to be talked about. Not until they went home themselves, and then there was more gossip and criticism. I am ashamed of this now. But when I was young, it felt grown up to do this.

Most people know that that is a sign of deep-seated insecurities.

My entire family suffered from insecurity. I was deeply uncertain about parts of myself. While in other areas, I was pretty sure of my place and my talents. We are all “uneven,” it seems. My parents appeared to be a golden couple. They loved each other and us. They had money and prestige and good health.

What was missing? What caused them to shore up their feelings about themselves by tearing down others? They could be brutal.

There must have been a great deal of pressure on us to live up to the very high expectations of our parents. As children, we must have been terrified of losing our parents’ love and respect. We heard what they said about their friends. And in fact, they said pretty terrible things about family members. These opinions must have made a big impact on us. We were the perfect ones. Everyone else was flawed. Growing up with that view, it seemed accurate that our family was exceptional. But of course, we each knew of our flaws, and we failed to conquer them. So we were suffused with guilt for not being as perfect as our parents wanted us to be.

Our Mother and Father believed that people should live good productive lives. They also believed that people should be good looking, slender, well dressed, have great hair, good personal hygiene, and manners. Always manners. They should not have a drinking problem or spend profligately. And they should all be faithful to their spouses and honest in every way. The implication was that they were all of these things, but others fell short. My brother, sister and I all knew we needed a lot of improvement. There was nothing unconditional about our parents’ love.

When I married at 19 and moved away, my husband brought this unfortunate tendency to my attention. It was mortifying to be told by him that what I had grown up doing was wrong, especially when he talked to me about how it looked to others. We were suffering some lack; otherwise, we would not be so critical. It was easy to embarrass me in those days because there was a lot of personal insecurity.

Gradually I began to notice how often I did this humiliating thing. Often the things I criticized were minuscule and unimportant.

And now, whenever I am conscious of my inner dialogue, my focus is on balance and kindness and compassion. However, it is easy to revert. And I do it all the time. Shamefully.

David Thoreau said we were “all living lives of quiet desperation”?

Most people wear an intricate mask hiding their pain as they soldier on. Sometimes we chance to glimpse into someone’s life and feel grateful it’s not happening to us.

Recently someone was talking to me about the sale of my mother’s house, and the woman apologized for not speaking to me sooner. It turned out that her mother died five days after mine did. She was reeling from the grief of her mother’s unexpected hospital death while I was feeling smug about my own mother’s “great death” in her own bed. Chagrin barely describes my feeling when I learned about this.

Back to my original quote, it reminds me that what may offend me or hurt my feelings may have nothing to do with me. If I feel slighted or disrespected, the cause of that action is something about which I know nothing. Chances are my uncomfortable experiences are by chance. I got in the way of their excruciating feelings of lack or loss or low self-esteem. There is no point in taking it personally.

The best revenge is NO revenge. Move on. Enjoy life.

Copyright?. 2020 Bonnie B. Matheson

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