Sunday, 19 August 2012

Difficult people can be our best teachers...but do we need the lesson?




 It’s true, difficult people can be our best teachers but how valuable is the lesson they teach?

Looking back on my life, which has been littered with difficult teachers, I’m not sure I learnt anything but the art of avoidance.  Difficult people are wearing to mind, body and soul. M Scott Peck’s first line in “The Road Less Travelled” is that “life is painful!” This is painfully obvious and that’s why our entry into the world began with birth pangs for our poor mothers.

Childbirth pain however is soon forgotten and it’s the pain of child rearing that lasts for the next twenty years or so. Pain, we are no strangers to. Once we’ve burn our fingers and reap the consequences then the best lesson we can take away is to avoid the cause of our pain, like the plague.

Conditional love
Avoidance is often our default mode. No one consciously walks into the path of trouble. However, too many times, we seem to be attracted to trouble, go on a date with it and end up married to it! Yes, trouble comes in many a disguise. The cute guy you see on your daily commute to work who makes you go weak at the knees could be concealing a dark secret….like a gambling addiction. Of course, you-who-can’t-resist the lure of his piercing blues gets drawn into his web.

The reformer in you wants to help him to change his ways. When the first alarm bell starts to go off in your head you turn down your hearing. You are having a whale of time sampling his charms and this is one fire where you need to feel the heat.

Once we’ve sent our rational mind to a cabin in the woods for a long holiday, we’re happy to indulge in the glorious recklessness of falling in love with a bad ‘un. Well only our friends and family think so. To us, he becomes our raison d’etre and like a moth to a flame we’re on a collision course to disaster.
We think we can change difficult people because love conquers all, right? Wrong, glib phrases cannot smooth over the cracks caused by abandonment, abuse, neglect and disrespect.

If the serpent in Eden hadn’t persuaded Eve to persuade Adam to eat that fruit, wouldn’t generations have avoided that difficult lesson? The forbidden fruit, like Pandora’s box, contained all the evils of the world that were unleashed in that unconscious moment. Are we to believe that that difficult lesson is a good thing?

I think not. There’s no escape from suffering but I believe that we can choose to avoid some of the administrators of the said pains.

Naturally, there are some we can’t get away from:

Our parents – where do I start? Some parents are really poor teachers but, with a little luck, we come to understand that their mistakes are never to be repeated.  Good lesson!

Siblings – know how to push our buttons. Especially when they’ve entered into relationships with difficult people and now enjoy telling you where you’ve gone wrong in your life. Your Christmas table might have less people around it but perhaps you could see them in every Olympic year??

School teachers – whoever heard of a student getting good grades when he didn’t like his teacher? Teachers are responsible for extolling the virtues of knowledge. A good teacher has the ability to pass on the love of his subject with patience and good humour. A good teacher is never forgotten.

Not a coward but a tactician
Abusive partners – don’t we just love them? We do. Sometimes you have to love them enough to let them go. Once you feel depleted, have lost your confidence and dignity it’s time to release your “difficult teacher”. There may be others who need the lesson more than you do. In fact, a difficult person deserves another difficult person – that’s poetic justice!

Aggressive bosses – I’m sure there’s an encyclopedia or ten that could cover the spectrum of difficult employers. The ones you love to keep you small, destroy your work/life balance, provide remote working (unpaid) and never appreciate your talents. If you don’t quit – it’s a bad lesson!

Thoughtless neighbours – if you’ve ever lived next door to someone who throws trash in their front garden and rotting food in their back garden, has a dog that escapes and digs up your flower beds you’ll know that these particular difficulties teach you a lot! Move – that’s a good lesson!

Difficult people teach us the art of tolerance (though your nerves might suffer) and gratitude (when they leave). That is something healthy that we can take away but I can’t help feeling that we’re all supposed to be making a little Eden of planet earth.

Just imagine if we had experienced unbroken unconditional love we would have evolved into consistenly loving beings. You don’t always need bad happenings to reveal your inherent goodness. If we’re made in the image of God then our potential for god-like behavior is huge.

So what happened to the blueprint? Did the serpent poison it all? Is the co-existence of good and evil are natural inheritance? No and we must never believe that it is.

Roads less travelled
Love enhances the intellect. Love promotes self-belief. Love is the fix we are all seeking. This love is spiritual, all encompassing and removes fear. Difficult people interfere with the love you deserve to receive making you feel guilty if you find it from another source.

We have to keep fighting to let the good prevail. We must teach evil that he cannot win and if he doesn’t learn this lesson he’ll be standing in the corner of the classroom (with a dunce’s hat on) for eternity.

Within your soul there is nothing you do not know. When you identify with mortality then you’ll seek answers to the questions and opportunities for learning.

The immortal one, deep inside you, knows that it is far better to seek questions and avoid conflict.

Whatever you're selling...I'm not buying!
Difficult people are like travelling salesmen, looking to offload their woes, hang-ups and grudges, to anyone soft-hearted or soft-headed. Don’t let it be your heart or head. This is the kind of retail therapy (and lesson) you don’t need!

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