Cheryl Hughes: Rule Number 4
I grew up with adults who told me three things on a constant loop: 1. You aren’t as smart as you think you are. 2. We expected better from you. 3. I know what you’re thinking. They were right about number 3. There was no mystery there, they told me what to think, so it would stand to reason that they would know what I was thinking.
When I left home right after graduation, I was lost and alone and trying to figure things out on my own. I knew how to work, and I knew how to do as I was told, so I got a job and saved my money, because I knew there would be no money coming from anybody else. Sometimes, I was hungry, but I paid my bills and continued to save my money.
I went to college and continued to work. I heard new ideas from people who gave me a chance to consider those ideas without pushing me to accept them, just because those ideas were theirs. It was hard and I was scared, but I grew and became someone I began to recognize as me: 1. I was as smart as I thought I was. 2. I gave better than better. I gave my best. 3. I knew what I thought, but now they didn’t.
Sometimes, my ideas weren’t accurate. Sometimes, I was too vocal about things I knew nothing about. I embarrassed myself, but I grew, and I learned, and most importantly, I understood. I understood that I have a place in this world, and I understood that others do, as well. I learned how not to invade another’s space, and I learned, “There is no greater wisdom than kindness” (Flavia Weeden). I learned this lesson only after I failed to be kind to others who, in spite of that, continued to be kind to me.
Reflection, at one time my enemy, became my friend. Looking-back, at first, was just embarrassment over what I’d done wrong or how stupid I’d been. It became a chance to do things better. Tools for the journey. Lessons lived. Wisdom imparted, not for the purpose of lording it over someone else, not for the purpose of saying, “Look at me!” But rather for the purpose of saying, “Look at you! See how far you’ve come. You started there and now you’re here!”
In Isaiah chapter 30, the prophet tells God’s people that God is their teacher. In verse 21, the prophet says: And your ears will hear a word behind you, “This is the way, walk in it,” whenever you turn to the right or to the left.
For too long, I thought of God as being out in front of me, dragging me along. I finally came to realize He is behind me, encouraging me forward. He is standing between me and my past, so when I look back, I don’t just see mistakes and regrets. I hear the voice that is saying, “This is the right way. Keep going.”
In the book, 12 RULES FOR LIFE (Jordan B. Peterson), Rule #4 is: Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today.
Nobody knows where you started. Nobody knows the obstacles you’ve faced. Nobody, but you. Give yourself credit for the things you have achieved within the particular set of circumstances in which you achieved them. Look how far you’ve come! Good job!