Live Your Truth
January 16, 2012 Leave a comment
Have you ever heard someone say something that resonated with you, even though the thought wasn’t necessarily a new one? Yesterday, sitting in my place of worship, I heard the speaker say, “We can’t make other people live our truth.” This wasn’t a new concept for me or one of those “Aha!” moments Oprah always talks about having, for it is a lesson I learned during college psychology classes and have read in numerous journals over the years. But the reminder is one that I believe most of us need to hear from time to time.
All too often, we put expectations upon others. Sometimes these are societal norms that we feel every man, woman and child should obey and includes things like obeying the law or living according to the “golden rule” of treating others as you would like to be treated. Other times, our expectations are more self-serving and we expect friends to be honest, children to love us and spouses or partners to be loyal.
Problems arise, however, because all of us have free will. We live, at least in the United States, in a democracy where everyone has the right to pursue what makes them happy. Unfortunately, the same thing that makes my friend, neighbor, or relative happy may not always align with what constitutes my happiness and therefore conflicts arise.
For example, growing up, I’d always thought that one day I would watch one of my relatives don her wedding gown, walk down the aisle on her father’s arm, and kiss her new groom. I knew I would have the chance to dance at her wedding, to celebrate her special day. Hollywood always portrays shining moments like those in films like “Father of the Bride,” and we look forward to replicating those moments in our own lives.
But then one day, she disappeared without a trace. We didn’t know if she had run away, eloped or been taken into witness protection. My parents and I were frantic with worry and wondered where she went or if she was even alive. Legally, she was an adult and had the right to pursue her happiness with the man she loved, whether or not we as her family understood her reasons or method of doing so. But our expectations had been based on a dream we all had for her, rather than -on the one she had for herself. Therefore our disappointment was great and it took us a long time to move past what I can only describe as a feeling of betrayal.
In another instance, several years ago, I confided my best kept secret to a dear friend. When I told him about a childhood experience that affected the rest of my life, he empathized with me and even wept with me, which was what I needed at the time. At that moment, when he didn’t judge me but seemed to understand where I came from, he became my rock, the one friend I believed I would always be able to trust.
Later, however, when he invited me over to talk, I thought it was to check on me, to see if I was still holding up and dealing well with the secret I’d shared with him. What happened was something altogether different. He wanted to confront me about something I didn’t anticipate; a piece I had written that he didn’t agree with. The encounter took me by surprise, and I felt blindsided and confused. Now I understand that he felt close enough to broach the subject with me, and in fact had every right to share his opinion, but emotion got in the way of my comprehension at that moment in time.
In both instances, my emotions suddenly combusted and raged like a wildfire out of control because of one problem that was mine alone. I expected people to live up to my idea of them, to conform to what I thought they should think, how I believed they should behave, what I assumed should make them happy. At the center of every equation, I was the factor I unconsciously thought everyone else should have implemented in their life. After numerous conversations with others, I realize this is a trait common among mankind.
Yet as I sat listening to the speaker yesterday, hearing his reminder that we can’t make other people live our truth, I knew he was right. None of us can really say who others should love, how they should react to the work we do, the words we write or the art we create. The only person any of us can truly shape and control is ourself.
We will never eradicate our emotional responses to other people’s actions no matter how hard we try, to do so would be to strip ourselves of our humanity. But we can change how we react by striving to truly live in the moment and accept each positive interaction as the gift that it is. We can get more in touch with our spiritual center and live life with an open heart, examining the possibilities each situation provides rather than the roadblocks that stand in our way. Most of all, we can embrace all of life, every joy and every sorrow, as the constant reminder that we are still here taking the occasion to learn from experience, teach from wisdom, and accept each new day as a chance to live healthier, happier lives as we pursue our own truth, free from expectations and filled with opportunity.
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