Recently I was talking to Sarah, who was acting like a victim and fully occupied with being angry, right, right, and right. And this was immediately after she had asked me for HELP with her unhappiness. When someone is unhappy but insists on being right, it’s quite impossible to help them, because they have to be willing to learn.
After several minutes, I told Sarah that she was arguing with everything I said, and that she had been doing that in conversations with me all day. She angrily maintained that she had not been arguing for the first FEW minutes we had talked earlier that morning. So after an entire day of arguing, she wanted to make me responsible for her unhappiness—and her lack of trusting me—because I had not sufficiently recognized how she had not argued for a few minutes early on.
I told her that listening to her was like watching someone appearing in court for their fifteenth drunk driving conviction—the last resulting in the death of an entire family—but self-righteously demanding recognition for all the times they HADN’T killed anyone while driving.
Sarah didn’t quit. On and on she went, saying that if only I had loved her this way or that way, or if I had not made this mistake or that, then she would be happy. It is common for people to tell wise men and women that they would have listened IF ONLY the wise person had been more loving, a better teacher, and otherwise more perfect.
In your pursuit of happiness, if you require that love and wisdom be delivered in a certain way, or if you regularly find fault with those trying to love you, you will never find the love you’re looking for.
If you are a wise person, you will make mistakes on occasion. It’s unavoidable, an integral part of being human. The real point is that it DOES NOT MATTER if you make mistakes as a wise person—not to you nor to the person you’re loving. What matters is that you’re doing the best you can to love and teach people, WHILE you make your mistakes. What matters is the overall direction of your efforts, not the details of any mistakes you might make.
To illustrate, for centuries sailors have crossed the Atlantic Ocean—from Naragansett in Rhode Island to Bristol in England, for example—and often they have arrived within a single inch of their desired destination.
The accuracy of such a journey is staggering, and yet during the journey the sailor tacks against the wind thousands of times, which means he zigzags back and forth, resulting in a motion that is overall forward. Thousands of times he tacks northeast, or east northeast, or southeast. During the seconds or minutes of each tack, it could appear that the sailor is “off course,” but overall he is heading east, toward the proper goal.
To make matters more complicated, winds change, water currents move, and sails flap and tear, along with uncounted other influences, but still the experienced sailor arrives where he intends.
So the question is, during an individual tack, is the sailor wrong? Is it possible that when I function as a wise person with someone, for example, I might tack to the northeast a minute too long, or turn too hard, or make any number of mistakes?
YES, but WHO CARES? What matters is not the speed or direction of a particular moment of loving and teaching but the overall course. If the person being loved insists on a perfectly straight and easy course the entire time, then they’ll lose trust and jump out of the boat and drown. Their demands for perfection will kill them.
As a wise person, you will:
Get conversation appointment times wrong.
Get the intended meaning of a phrase or conversation confused.
Speak the wrong details about events or people or whatever.
Do NOT feel guilty or apologize. Why?
Because when you’re loving and teaching, the other person MUST learn to trust you WHILE you’re making minor mistakes, or course corrections, or even correctly tacking into the wind. If people insist on understanding your every move, and agreeing with it, they WILL LOSE. Changing lives comes from trust, not from creating an environment of perfect safety.
Learn how to truly love others and give them what they need.