Someone that I love and care for deeply is in a serious battle with some personal issues and has been…well, possibly her entire life. The situation goes back to before she was in a position to have much of a say so in the matter. It’s not something that happened as a result of something she did or did not do. It’s not something she asked for and it is definitely not something anyone would wish for. But…it is. Like so many things, it just is. And now she gets to deal with the consequences and effects on a daily basis. It is the burden and struggle that mysteriously appeared on the doorstep of her life as an unwanted ‘welcome to the neighborhood’ gift from: God? The Universe? Karma maybe?
I’ve pretty much always been of the opinion that we are at least partly responsible for most of the difficulty that we encounter in life. This is a hard stance to take and it’s easy to cite examples that refute this line of reasoning. The situation I mentioned above is a good example. But at the same time I am my own best case study in this human experiment and for me, I could almost always trace the root of any problem back to myself somehow. Unfortunately doing this can have the result of being too harsh a critic of ones self and, if you’re not careful, it can spread to those around you also. I’ve been accused of being a perfectionist, and though I disagree, I’ve heard it enough times now to override my own opinion and accept that there may be some merit to the claim.
I have just about determined that there is some innate human need to feel emotionally victimized and since I didn’t have parents or family to whack at my self-esteem I guess I took the liberty of becoming my own personal bully. I really have to just smile or even laugh now when I look back and think about how I acted and how I treated myself in certain situations. Learning to be compassionate and patient with myself has been a major life lesson. I’m still in the process of trying to get it. We are all taught the importance of treating others well but seldom are we told the importance of treating ourselves with loving kindness also.
In any situation and at all times it is as if we have two ‘selves’. There’s the little self that – to borrow an analogy from a friend – gets battered around life like the ball in a pinball machine and who’s defining characteristic is one of reaction. Things happen and it reacts automatically. Think of a robot. Buttons get pushed and the robot does what it’s programmed to do. There is no 'choice' involved though there is the illusion of choice (which can make it all the more frustrating). This is the little self. Helpless and constantly having it’s buttons pushed by the external environment and by other robots, other little ‘selves’ that are equally helpless and reactionary. It’s really just the personality when comes down to it.
Then there is the big Self. This is the part of us beyond the personality that looks down on our foibles and failures in much the same way a parent would observe their child trying to learn to ride a bicycle. The parent will step in and offer some assistance here and there but realizes there is a certain amount of falling down necessary in order for the child to master this new skill. Lovingly and patiently the parent observes without judgment or criticism.
Our whole life is like this. Falling down…bumps, bruises, scrapes…then back up to try again. Repeat. Each time getting a little better, mastering some new skill, growing and learning. It’s more give than take and patience is required every step of the way, with ourselves and with each other. If we look back we can see that in almost every case we did the best we could given the knowledge and skill we possessed at the time. Life is more art than science. Even in the times we knew better or should have known better, something deeper was at work.
Forgiveness proves to be an invaluable asset as we travel along, inevitably hurting our selves and those around us as we fumble through trying to learn how to work the handlebars and the brakes and as we struggle to find our balance.