During our formative years there are those people (usually our parents but not always) who have a great impact in our lives and the way we look at things. For me there were a few people throughout my life who taught me some valuable lessons. Looking back at my life 2 men had the most impact in my life, my grandfather and my father. To those who knew them, these two men couldn’t have been more different, and in many ways they were, however looking back at some of the lessons they taught me, I can see the similarity in their teachings or rather how one teaching compliments the other. Growing up I would not have considered their opposite polarities a blessing; rather like most children would; I found it confusing. I couldn’t figure out how to make peace with such different realities; as I grew up and life provided me with more and more experiences, I am able to see that both teachings were really two different sides of the same coin.
I won’t deny having found their teachings so different from one another, it only added to the confusion in my mind. My relationship with both of these men was very different. I always respected and loved my grandfather deeply, on the other hand I feared my father and loved my father regardless of our very dysfunctional relationship. This is natural for many, as most of us would like to be loved and accepted by our parents. My relationship with my father only got better much later in life, and was able to achieve closure and mend wounds we both caused shortly before he passed away. As I look back and look at the shape my life is taking, I can see clearly all which has happened was for a reason, all of it good and bad were part of a much bigger lesson. As I am learning to embrace all of me, I am capable to see just how beautiful life’s plan was for me, and all that pain, humiliations, frustrations, mistakes I made, were all part of developing my inner self.
There is a saying I like, “In order for a plant to grow beautiful and strong one has to put manure on it, and what is manure but Shit”. Similarly the Chinese and the Indian have long admired the Lotus flower and have used it as an allegory in their teachings. A lotus flower is a very beautiful, exotic, mesmerizing flower indeed!. You do not find it in a pretty garden, surrounded by the perfect conditions, a Lotus flower grows in shallow, murky waters. Out of the mud the Lotus emerges with all its beauty and its splendor. It is the same for the human soul. Yes we all have a heart, and we all have the ability to love and to connect with life at a deep , real level, however just like consciousness it needs to be developed. People who grow in loving atmospheres are blessed and they have their own beautiful purpose in life.
As the illness and loss of consciousness grew in our Society, it erroneously taught us that good people can only be found in optimal upbringings. This is more and more proving to be not true, as the great Elizabeth Kubler said ” The most beautiful people are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths……………….beautiful people do not just happen.”
She was right. Sometimes when we have lacked things such as love or material things, we tend to make the mistake of over giving our children everything we lacked as if that was the answer. Many times by doing so, one ends up hindering and in the long term causing more pain to the very people one intends to protect. One can end up handicapping the child’s personal development, such a child may grow up to be very shallow, unforgiving, resentful, or self destroy. I have been lucky enough to have tasted both; the highest of highs, and the lower of lows, which is why material things/inconsequential things don’t impress me much.
Pain has long been considered an enemy, well it’s not. Pain is life’s gift, not one we like to accept, but one that if embraced, guided to see it for what it is, can bring with it a precious gift; transformation/growth of soul. This is not something theoretical, I have experience it. I used to fight pain, but life and its plans kept putting it on my way and at times still do; is all part of the process. Pain like death is unavoidable. Life was also kind enough to put certain people in my life who guided me, lovingly at times, at other times more coldly. At times I hated their teachings but they were there not to enable me, to help me find my way. Of course I would not come to understand this until much later. Now whenever I am hurting, I stay with the emotion, whether hurt or anger. I do not deny my anger, nor my pain. I surrender to either in a much healthier way. I can get tremendously sad or seriously pissed off and I can verbally or mentally express a lot of my anger and that is okay (as long as someone else is not getting abused by it). I have learned to give myself permission to do so, because I realized holding on to those emotions for the sake of looking proper to others is not good. Crazy enough both my grandfather and father tried to teach me about this. My grandfather was a very evolve spiritual man, who changed many people’s lives. He took in the homeless, fed them, educated and loved the orphans without making distinctions. He always seek knowledge of the spirit through all venues provided, not limiting himself to one belief. My father was more practical, with a more militarized type of thinking. He was more logical, liked to analyzed everything. He was a self made man who was taught to survive, and he would fight back. He was not so concerned with the spirit, he was more concerned with what was put in front of him and seeing past people’s bullshit. Here are some of the things I learned from both these men, and it is by integrating one with the other that I’ve come to see the benefits of life.
1)Family isn’t always blood. Many of us have heard this lesson. My grandfather was the man that drove that lesson home. I grew up watching him raised many orphans. They were not just a charity to him. Taking them in was not something he did for others to see or to get something back. Unlike Canada, where I was raised, the government gives you nothing for taking children off the street. You do not get help with education or medical, or anything at all. My grandfather did pick children whom he could get literally nothing from. Families who could not afford to feed another child would bring their kid and give him to my grandparents. My grandfather many times employed these families in order for them to keep their child. Sometimes that was not possible, and those kids became part of his family. We all got the same amount of work, we all got treated with love by him, we all got disciplined and guided without any difference. My grandfather loved these children and they loved him back. I remember when there was an earthquake, not a major one but enough to scare us. People ran to the patio, the designated safe part of this colonial style home. My grandfather by then was very old, in bed, with advanced Parkinson’s. In the whole commotions and the adults trying to gather the children to safety, one young man named Roberto who must have been 15 years old or 16 had ran to my grandfather’s room and got him out. He carried him on his arms. I remember my grandmother who was concerned as to where her husband was (she just got back from working on her garden at the back), her eyes had such gratitude towards Roberto. That lesson stayed with me, the young man’s love and loyalty to a man who had treated him like his own son, expecting nothing in return. Where Roberto saw a homeless person, with nothing to offer, my grandfather saw a human soul, deserving of love, with so much potential and that Roberto had. He was a smart fellow whom last I knew had a great head on his shoulders, and was a productive man. I will never forget that lesson. I got to see first hand that my grandfather was correct, family isn’t always blood, family are the ones that love you and who can argue with you yet still be there for you even if you have different opinions. Family does not try to emotionally blackmail you into submission. Family understands your choices are different and you have the right to have them, and because there is a genuine love those choices are respected, and accepted without exclusion being the punishment for not conforming to someone else’s perception of life. For me that lesson sunk at an early age, and through life I have seen how true it is. Family is a much greater concept than blood ties.
2) If you have something to say about someone else say it to their face. This lesson came from both men, however the one that drove this lesson home was my father. He hated hypocrisy. If he was angry and fought with someone it was done openly. He was not concerned with what people would think, or with making others feel comfortable by walking on eggshells around the subject because of fear to disappoint or be caught in an uncomfortable situation. My father was a man that grab the bull by the horns. If he had something to say to you, you would know it. He was no good at faking emotions for anyone. He had a severe dislike and very little psychological room left for people who laughed too much with someone and then would go and talk to someone else about that same person they were just laughing with. He would call them cowards and untrustworthy. Here is an example, if my father was angry towards someone who had wronged him, he had no room for hiding. If they crossed paths and happen to be in the same room, my father would have walked up to that person and called them out on their lies. He would have exposed them, and let the chips fall where they may. He had no room for pretending. I believe out of love for those close to me, I have learned to not do that, however at times is still hard to do, hence I walk away. I don’t want to play politics. The irony of it all is that my father was right. The faster people face up, the sooner things can regain a sense of normalcy, but one that is open not based on false social politics.
3) The truth doesn’t hide. My grandfather used to say, if you want to know who lies between two people, don’t look at the words but the actions. If you have two people in a room, look at who is wiling to stand up and who cowards. You will have your answer. Words and smiles can be deceiving, people’s actions can not. It is easy to claim innocence when not confronted by the party one accuses. That would not ever stand in a court of law, then why is tolerated and enabled in other areas?.
4) Don’t be afraid to rock the boat. My father taught me that. Don’t ever be afraid to stand up because of fear of what others may think of you. He used to say. “A Lion is never afraid of sheep. What do you want to be, the Lion or be the sheep? Sheep get eaten, sheep don’t have a voice, and can be deceived. People are the same way, some people like to think, and some people like others to do the thinking for them that way they can avoid responsibility, and wash their hands of anything. They claim they have many friends, at the end they have no one, because their friendships are dependent of whom they please, unable to be themselves”. My grandfather taught me something similar but in a more peaceful way. He used to say ” The man who watches a group of men beating another person but chooses to say nothing or to not to get involved is no less guilty than the ones that did the beating”. He used to say people are very scare to confront themselves and their own wounds, so they avoid any conflictive situation in order to not loose the illusion of self autonomy of which they really have none. He used to say “Try to have understanding for their soul, but don’t become like them, don’t be afraid to stand up. Those who are willing to stand alone, are the ones that have always changed this world”. Where my father would have gone full guns blazing, my grandfather taught me of Ghandi. He said Ghandi was a real man of peace and knowledge. At one point when the British were hitting him until he would collapse on the ground; they did this because he was peacefully protesting; Ghandi would not strike back in the same ignorant/violent way. He did not coward, took the beating and hide. He stood his ground. Time and time again he stood up and face them. He looked at them straight in the eye until they got the point that he was one man they would not break, bully or intimidate. Ghandi changed India, and he changed many lives. He did this by a beautiful combination of loving peace and fair action. My grandfather used to say to stand up openly, intelligently without fear of what others may think, is what develops true moral character.
5)Forgiveness doesn’t mean allowing others to continue hurting you. My grandfather taught me this. Where my father lived more by the rule of Machiavelli which teaches that if someone hurts you, in return you should hurt that person so deeply, by taking away everything they love, value, cherish, make the punishment so severe so they never think again of lifting a hand against you. Years ago, I would have followed this.
My grandfather taught me the other side of this lesson. That is true forgiveness does not mean to simply say you are okay and allow others to keep making the same mistakes with you. If a person truly is repentant, that person will take responsibility for their actions, and expect you to take responsibility for yours; only then can true forgiveness happen. In a fight there is no innocent party, both sides have some responsibility and both should face it to the extent they are responsible for, when that happens true forgiveness can take place. Otherwise learn to walk away. Don’t coward, but don’t allow yourself to be hurt either. Christ taught to love your neighbor as you love yourself, he did not say go love your neighbor first and give everything to him, and then love yourself. The only way to truly love others and respect others is by first loving self, otherwise you become a hypocrite because you are not living in coherency. You can’t give to others what you don’t have. When you truly love yourself, you accept there are two sides and that taking responsibility for your part is natural.
6)Intelligence and a good person can not be measured by tests or good deeds. My father taught me intelligence is developed, being able to memorize something didn’t make you intelligent. Intelligence is the capacity to think by yourself, to formulate your own opinion with all facts having been examined. Knowledge my grandfather said expands your consciousness, and when you expand your consciousness and open your heart is when you can start to understand the wonders of the world you live in. A good person isn’t measure by how they treat others but by how they treat their family. Many people are so busy being so nice to strangers, acting understanding; I call it acting because it comes from the ego not from the heart. If it came from the heart the first thing they would do is show the same compassion and understanding to their own family. There is a quote about intelligence which stayed with me “There are 3 kinds of intelligence: One kind understands things for itself, the other appreciates what others can understand. The third understands neither for itself nor through others. This first kind is excellent, the second good and the third useless.”
7)True faith is trusting the plan of God not talking revenge into your own hands. My grandfather taught me all of us have different levels of faith, and that that is natural. If we were perfect we would not be here. It is in accepting this, in accepting our own short comings that one can transcend them. He used to say there is no greater lie than the one you tell yourself. If you truly belief your faith is great then you should not take from your neighbor/hurt your neighbor but rather trust in God/higher power/balance of the universe to do its thing. To take it into your own hands is a sign of lack of faith or a faith which is not deep. I for one know that my faith is one which I am still developing. I may not do everything right, but I refuse to lie to myself that I have everything figured out, or that my faith is rock solid. In accepting this, I know I will grow. Only when something becomes conscious can one transcend it. I still get pissed off, at times I wish I still was the person I was many years ago, but I can see my growth when I allow myself to feel the anger and know that some of the things which have been done to me, won’t be done by me. I know just like others have hurt me, I too have hurt others. I am also conscious however that where I am willing to take responsibility for my part others need to be too. I am at peace because I know that whatever hurt I have cause longs has been evened out by the hurt others have imposed, so I won’t lower myself to anyone or punish myself for anything which is not mine to own. I know myself enough to know, I get angry quick, but when someone truly is willing to move on, I do so without resentment. That much I am absolutely certain about myself. I am nobody’s fool, neither am I an arrogant ignorant person. I am willing to work with those willing to do the same openly and without blackmail.
To summarize, whether you were taught life’s lessons in one way or the other, it is up to you to let them sink in. Even if you were raised with erroneous beliefs you can still make the choice to look for the good points of the lesson; that is wisdom. Also remember, nobody is perfect, fear and anger are natural, is what you do with it that counts. You have the right to express your opinion, you don’t have the right to hurt others.
No matter how hurt I get, I pray I remain unwilling to retaliate in the same manner. When you have the know how, the history, the strength and the means to hurt others, it makes it difficult inside not to feel tempted when angry. So I am thankful for every time I feel the anger, I release it and let it go without making myself small. I am thankful at those moments because I know I have grown, am still growing, and although my faith is not rock solid, I am certainly a long way from years back; this tells me am on the right path.