March 13

Pushing Over a Tree

March 13, 2014

Personal Growth

All our lives people have taught us that we are responsible for how they feel. Each time a parent sighs with disappointment or expresses frustration with a child, they are clearly stating—however unconsciously it might be—that the child is responsible for those negative feelings.

We see this pattern repeated—with words, scowls, tone of voice, and more—hundreds, sometimes thousands, of times every year. As children, we have no choice—none whatever—about accepting this lie as the truth, and so for the rest of our lives, we carry the unbearable burden of responsibility for the feelings of others.

Until we dispel this lie, we cannot be free. We cannot be happy.

Imagine that you’re walking in the forest, and as you stumble on a vine, you steady yourself by leaning on a tree. Although the tree is eighty feet high and four feet in circumference, it begins to lean away from you, falls, and finally crashes to the ground with a sound like thunder.

Are you responsible for pushing over the tree? Ridiculous. Nobody can push over a tree of that size. So what happened? On further examination, you discover that the tree is dead and almost completely rotten. The tree fell because of advanced age, the ravage of bugs, the rot of bacteria and fungi, and other unknown factors. And during the previous night the wind blew more rain on one side of the tree than the other, causing an imbalance of weight. You might have contributed 0.01% to all the factors that brought the tree down, but you were not the cause.

Similarly, you never cause the anger or other feelings of another person. Their feelings are caused by their DNA, countless experiences over decades, innumerable past traumas, their epigenome, the parenting they received, and more. THAT is what determines how they respond to you, not your puny, ten-second interaction with them.

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