April 30

The Courage to Help Others and Help Ourselves

April 30, 2014

Stress Management

Nearly all of us spend our lives simply repeating the beliefs and patterns of behavior that we learned as children. I could not emphasize too strongly how powerfully we are influenced—virtually set in stone, actually—by the experiences of our early childhood. If the people around us were unloved and afraid, we learned that the world was harsh and unloving and painful. That was the only conclusion we COULD make. No infant will respond to a uniformly unloving environment by standing up and saying, “Wait a minute. Do you all realize how unloving you are? Do you not see how insane this is?” Impossible.

Once it is established in our minds that unloving is NORMAL, we are effectively doomed, unless someone can profoundly and powerfully shift our foundational beliefs.

As wise men and women THAT is our job, to love and teach people in a way that creates the possibility for the truth to replace the lies they believe, and for love and peace to replace their pain and fear.

Helping people to change their entire lives is not an easy venture. People tend to cling to what they have believed and to how they have behaved for decades. But some people DO recognize that “normal” is not happy, and they want more for themselves and others.

So imagine this change for yourself. I take your hand and lead you from an utterly barren wasteland of sandy desert to a verdant, fruitful jungle. For you this is like moving to another world. You can barely comprehend the change. Rather than perpetually dying of thirst, you can drink any time you want from the drops that fall from the leaves above, or from the rivulets of pure water that flow all around your feet. Instead of hunting and digging for scraps of food, you can pluck the fruit that hangs from branches within arm’s reach.

This is a bit of heaven, yes? You want to stay in this place forever. But wait. As you’re walking on the floor of matted leaves, you step in a small patch of sand. The sensation is strikingly familiar, and your whole body instantly comes to a standstill. What is this? Sand? What does it mean? If this is sand, then perhaps the entire jungle is an illusion. Perhaps you’re really in the desert, or you might want to flee the jungle and return to the desert.

Sound absurd? Not at all. Every day I interact with people who are making the transition from desert to jungle, and although the change sounds obviously desirable, the desert perspective is ingrained by decades of experience and is therefore not easy to escape. Suppose you are repeatedly behaving in a way that is harmful to you and others around you—behaviors learned in the desert. Out of love for you, I point out what you’re doing. You ignore me and continue the behavior. I point it out again, this time more directly—again for your benefit—and suddenly my directness reminds you, however slightly, of the barrenness of your previous desert home. It gives you a “sandy taste” in your mouth.

So now you have a choice to make. You could:

1. Briefly find it curious that there would be sand in the jungle.

OR

2. Decide that you must be in the desert instead of the jungle. Or run out of the jungle back to the desert.

In the process of changing worlds, you will have confusing moments. Be calm. Stick with the overall pattern of evidence you see and feel. Touch the leaves. Drink the water. Don’t be distracted by the occasional patch of sand. Choose the jungle, not the desert.

Great courage is required for us to change worlds. Great courage is required of those who lead us by the hand to new worlds. We must summon the courage, which really means to trust the love we are finding and giving—rather than give in to our fears, which will keep us rooted in the sand.

Wise men and women book cover

Learn how to effectively lead others to new worlds.

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