The Two Broad Jumps: Accepting People Where They Are At
It is very important to accept people – both ourselves and others – exactly where they are at. It begins with recognizing the truth of where they are at – not where we want them to be or where they might be soon, but exactly as they are now, and then allowing that to just be ok as it is. This acceptance is love.
Learning is a process we are all engaged in for life. It looks different for each person, but the following 2 major leaps are often part of people’s experience of growth:
The two broad jumps in emotional growth:
1. Take responsibility for your actions and feelings. You are responsible for every situation you find yourself in. When strong feelings arise, there is something for you to learn. It is your job, and yours only, to manage your feelings and choose your perspective.
2. Allow other people responsibility for their actions and feelings. Other people’s feelings are about their own life lessons and it is their choice how to behave and what perspective to choose. You are not responsible for making them happy or making them learn.
No one can really know what another person needs. It may seem clear, but even if you think you know what someone else has not yet learned, it is important to let that person be on their own path of growth. Each person has to go through their own experiencing. It is challenging to step back and watch someone else struggle to learn something, but it can also be very fruitful.
If someone asks you for advice or brings up a subject in an inquiring way, you can give your opinion freely. You may even see an opportunity to gently suggest something to someone for their own benefit. But more often than not, a person isn’t ready to hear what you have to say even if what you offer them is in fact what they need. This is also a cultural phenomenon. Due to living in such a competitive culture, most people are too insecure to welcome advice from friends and family about how to improve themselves. It “makes them look bad” and opens up their vulnerabilities for ridicule. Even if you offer unsolicited advice that is very useful, be prepared not to take it personally if people react defensively (this can be a great chance to practice not taking things personally). If someone is resistant to your suggestions, be open to the idea that you’ve misread them and also do your best to simply accept them where they are at and allow them to learn their own lessons.
The following “Autobiography in Five Short Chapters,” from There’s a Hole in My Sidewalk by Portia Nelson, illustrates well the value of letting each person learn from their own experience:
“Chapter 1: I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I fall in. I am lost…I am helpless. It isn’t my fault. It takes forever to find a way out.
Chapter 2: I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I pretend I don’t see it. I fall in again. I can’t believe I am in this same place. But it isn’t my fault. It still takes a long time to get out.
Chapter 3: I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I see it is there. I still fall in…it’s a habit…but, my eyes are open. I know where I am. It is my fault. I get out immediately.
Chapter 4: I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I walk around it.
Chapter 5: I walk down a different street.”
Of course, we can create relationships of trust and love with our kin and friends which allow each to openly share observations of the other’s behavior. But what we offer to others about their own journey and growth depends upon the level of friendship, timing, and how deeply they invite us to share with them. Ultimately, each individual must experience their own learning in order to grow.
The most important thing you can do to change the world is to change your own value system, align your actions with your values, and strive to learn and grow. We create our culture with every action. If our actions support the pursuit of security through possessions and power, then that is our way of life. Every time you choose to take a rest when you are tired instead of pushing past your limit or choose to dance around when you are full of life, you create something different. Every time you choose not to take on a victim role or not to support others in viewing the world that way, you encourage a more empowered way of being. Every time you choose to take pause to breathe in an emotionally charged situation, you provide an example of how to respond without reacting.
One of the hardest choices (and most necessary) is to do your own work and allow others to do their own – your parents, your siblings, your friends and neighbors, even your own children. The best thing you can do for them and for yourself is to live a healthy, simple, balanced lifestyle and be an example of what is possible. Most people have been taught that what they see in our cultural world is the way humans are and that we can’t change it. Most people don’t believe it is possible for a person or a culture to change. How many times do we hear the mantra of impossibility in our lives: “People don’t change,” “Once a thief, always a thief,” or “That’s just the way things are”?
The catch is that as we open ourselves to change, we can’t bring anyone with us as we grow. Every person has free will and must be allowed their own choices. It is the worst kind of arrogance to assume we are so powerful that we can change others or even teach them anything.
Everyone learns through their own experiences and in their own time. The best thing you can do is exemplify another way of interacting with the world to allow others permission to do the same. Be a trail blazer. Many of your friends and family may ostracize you for the distance which naturally occurs as people grow at different rates, but just allow them to choose their experience while you choose your own. Sometimes this requires loving others at a distance, as many people are intimidated by bright, happy, healthy people and find it easier to tear them down than to choose to do their own work and move forward. Be kind and patient. Remember that all of us are damaged by this culture and allow yourself as well as your old friends to establish new relationships without clinging to the past. They deserve to have others in their lives who enjoy the level of friendship they embody.