Others Are Our Greatest Teachers, if We Let Them Be

Others Are Our Greatest Teachers, if We Let Them Be

Yesterday I was in conversation with a close friend when I said, out-of-the-blue, “I imagine that felt a little like someone spitting at you.” It was the first time, in a long time, that I remembered living that reality. As a teenager, my mom regularly spat at me. It was her way of accentuating her feelings of disgust, disappointment or rejection. I think I had blocked that memory. Even my husband said he never remembered me ever mentioning it.

You see, for the most part, I was a pretty good kid. I never rebelled, never acted out, etc. (My rebellious streak has come out more as an adult. True Story.) For all intents and purposes, I really could never understand her utter disgust for me. I concluded that I would find my validation elsewhere… and found it in academic, leadership, and social achievement (something I’d recognize as false validation only much later in life).

I lived with this internal message (and thus shut her out) that, “I was never good enough for my mom.”

But much thanks to tools I’ve been exposed to as a coach, i.e. the The Work of Byron Katie, I am learning to inquire until I get to the deepest truth about a person or situation. And when I do, I know I’m there when I am utterly moved with compassion for myself and the other individual.

So, with my mom, I did inquiry around that belief:

Is it true? “I was never good enough for my mom.”

The truth was…

What is “good enough” anyway? She never said those exact words, that I wasn’t good enough for her, I only interpreted her words and actions that way. Even if she had said those words, it didn’t make them true. I am good, whether or not someone else acknowledges it.

So, when I was open to admitting, “No, it is not true that I was never good enough for my mom,” I began to do inquiry into what could possibly be more true in that situation.

I turned the comment around multiple ways until I found the deepest truth:

“I WAS good enough for my mom.” True, whether she saw it or not.

“She was never good enough for me.” Well, tempted sometimes to judge the mother she never was I might have wanted to say yes, but she was the mother she was. So she was good enough for me. And many of you who have read my previous writing on my mom know that she was quite colorful and I have acknowledged, on the flip side, her amazing capacity to love extremely well. She was a paradox.

“I was never good enough for me.”

No. “She was never good enough for herself.” BINGO!

As soon as I reached that last statement, my stomach sank. I knew that was the most true statement of all in that scenario.

While on the outside she was spitting at her daughter, whom she loved, I could only imagine the critic she was living with on the inside. She must have lived with moments of complete disgust and hatred toward herself and her actions toward me were only a symptom.

When I reached that truth, tears welled up and I was moved with so much compassion for her. It wasn’t about me. It was about her. And I lost out on bridging the gap as long as I believed it was about me. I lost out on love–both giving and receiving–when I held her in contempt for her actions.

My mom passed last May. I have discovered such an interesting thing about death. We never really lose the person who passed. My relationship with my mom is as dynamic as ever. It is only different now.

I have her to thank for all the insight and understanding about love that has come since her death. I have her to thank for a good portion of the content of my current book. I have her to thank for my passion to love with reckless abandon. I have her to thank for the ways I have grown by stretching my own comfort zone of expressing love, knowing life is too short to do otherwise. I have her to thank for the deep inner work of forgiveness and self-love.

So, is it true that others can be our greatest teachers? Absolutely, it is true. If we will let them. If we will inquire beyond our reactionary responses and be willing to do deeper work of inquiry to truth. When we do, EVERY time we do… we will know we have reached the deepest level of truth when we are flooded with compassion for the other person and for our self too.

We discover, it makes perfect sense that that other person responded the way he/she did, with what was going on in his/her inner world, of which I only have a small glimpse.

Every trigger, every situation, every relationship is an opportunity to grow. I still feel like I’m a baby on the journey. But, my goodness, what an amazing way of being in the world. My perspective of life and people only continues to grow more amazing.

Tremendous love for you tonight, and the ways your heart may need to know love and your own worth. I hope this post encourages you that they are closer than you thought.


Loving you, ~V

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