As a child I was taught the age-old wisdom, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” Once I entered public schools, being the overly-sensitive child which I was, I had to quickly learn the defensive protection of “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Truth be told, however, many of my less-sensitive schoolmates’ words did hurt–I just learned to act as if they didn’t. Thus, I began to wear a mask and keep my feelings inside, except of course when they seeped through the corners of my eyes. Of course, there were times when I allowed my feelings on the outside in the comfort zone of friends or family.
As an adolescent I began the marvelous process of thinking for myself–trying to make sense of the world in which I was living, idealizing and philosophizing–thinking I knew it all, wondering why there were so many problems in the world which had seemingly simple solutions!. And I, like many teens, when their offerings of idealism are discredited and ignored by much smarter, more experienced “adults,” cloaked myself in rebellion and silence and indifference. When my feelings were challenged, I often built a soap box from which to broadcast my views. Those who liked what I said became friends. Those who didn’t became enemies. But in times of crisis–when my lack of experience over-rode my confidence–I learned that without a doubt, “blood was thick than water” and so, even those lines of distinction (friend vs. foe) faded at times.
Then love entered my life and the world became a wonderful place again! How hopeful it was to find my once-lost and nearly-forgotten rose-colored glasses! So nice to have at least one special person with whom to express my deep feelings: Joy! Love! Faith! Ah! But I was in for a rude awakening as time taught me that nobody is perfect! Glasses off, mask back on! I carried both at my side for many years in my early adulthood. I became an expert on analyzing, trusting/not trusting, judging, acting/being real. The world calls it social skills and personal relationship skills. I saw it as simply survival techniques. I was an army of one.
The world was a lonely place though. I felt no one knew the real me. I became bitter and angry now that I saw life for what it really was–a struggle. Feeling betrayed–all this and then you die? Nice! Very, very nice! The answer? Religion! A plan! A system! You do this and here’s your reward! Okay, I reasoned, something’s better than nothing! So I bought off on that in my desperation for life needing to have meaning and purpose. Even religion let me down, but having hit nearer the mark with it than without it, I learned to “bite my tongue,” “bear my sorrows,” and “take it to the Lord in prayer.”
Push came to shove and I found myself in the therapist’s office. She taught me, “It’s not what you’re saying, it’s how you are saying it.” She was right, of course. That truth went all the way back to childhood, “If you can’t say something nice…” and on through the, “Sticks and stones…” through the mask-wearing of adolescence–the art of the lonely, to soapboxes, which should be left to derbies not enemy-making, and finally bursting through the guise of so much error in organized religion.
All that understanding and now the remaining challenge–getting to the How. How to say what I have to say without hurting. That’s definitely upperclassman’s work, higher education. Seeking a master’s degree, if you will. Expertise, not born of knowledge, but rather, of wisdom. New mentors arrived for this student of life. Messengers touting principles such as, Speak your truth, but soothe your words with peace.” This new quest demanded honoring my individuality, but also retaining respect for unity. It demanded not an abandonment of my past traditions, learning and understanding, but an expansion and a clarification and filtering…retaining the truths and gently discarding those teachings and doctrines which no longer served.
All masters, Jesus, Buddha, Krishna, Mohammed, et. al. invite and instruct to follow their examples to embrace our own glory, to find out who we really are, to end our own suffering, as well as our infliction of suffering upon others. They all turn us to ourselves, to probe more deeply, to find peace, to find fulfillment , to know wisdom. Their lives are the example, their words are their instruction. And I am finding that this master’s program of life has the potential to encompass all the recognizable truths of my life. Knowing when to speak. Knowing how to speak. Distinguishing hyperbole from pearls of wisdom. Honoring self and oneness. Discarding masks and soap boxes in exchange for transparency and mountaintops.
Gift giving. Your Expertise and Wisdom…now those are gifts that are larger than life, wealth untold and immeasurable. And yet, they fit in such a small package that they are found only inside a pure heart and a clear mind. They are the gift of a master. Each one of us is master of his/her life. The experiences we have, the truths we hold–those are our own gifts to have and to share with those around us. Every life is immeasurably invaluable! It has cost a lifetime to know what you know, to do what you have done. Expressing your wisdom, telling your life story–leaving your legacy for those you love…now, that’s a true gift-giving from the heart!