Sunday, July 7, 2013

Paradoxical Commandment #9
Some of the worse arguments I have ever had took place in high school.  My girlfriend at the time struggled in calculus.  Blessed with a math brain, I offered tutorial services.  We would sit at her dining room table, pencils and practice problems at the ready, and do with battle integrals and complicated exponential functions.  The sessions always began tense, growing worse from there.  Eventually, one or both of us ended up yelling; our math related arguments always turned into personal attacks.  It wasn’t pretty.  Dr. Kent highlighted this scenario in Paradoxical Commandment #9:

People really need help but may attack you if you do help them. Help people anyway.

Our arguments had nothing to do with math.  The angry seeds for our yell-fests had already rooted deep within our own personalities before we ever sat down amongst the angsty theorems. hides within us all.  We carry it with us where we go.  No matter our thoughts, how we feel, or what we say, pride remains a part of us.  Some manage it better than others, putting it to the side when necessary.  Others wear it like a badge or a suit of armor.  Pride puts all of us at risk for both sides of Commandment #9.

My girlfriend needed help.  Everyone involved understood, including her.  My help seemed reasonable in the beginning: I was accessible, eager to spend more time with her, and good at the subject.  No one considered how we would work in a tutorial situation.  Her pride prevented her from seeing me as more than her beau; it’s hard to take a hormonal teenage boy seriously as a teacher.  My own pride elevated my internal status above her.  I treated her with less respect as my “student” than I offered to her as my girlfriend.

It’s easy to see how friction between the two of us lead to some spectacular fireworks.  She attacked me out of anger at herself that she didn’t understand and out of frustration that I spoke down to her.  I responded, thinking “how dare she speak to her teacher that way.”
Have you heard the phrase “hurting people hurt people?”  People carry emotional baggage.  When put into a situation in which they feel vulnerable, they lash out, trying to protect themselves.  The more pain they feel, the quicker and more fiercely they strike. 

We were not the perfect couple and some poor relationship decisions on both of our parts fermented feelings of guilt, insecurity, and mistrust.  Though neither of us knew of the other’s issues at the time, our personal reflections bubbled up during our study sessions.  I couldn’t tell you which was the fuel and which was the accelerant for our angry clashes, but I know they both played a part.

Helping people, whether on a direct personal level, or through a more wide spread distribution, creates a better world.  Understanding how to approach those we help, knowing we need to set aside our own personal issues before hand, and realizing sparks may fly, sets us up to generate more success through our efforts.

- I first encountered an adapted version of the “Paradoxical Commandments,” titled “The Final Analysis,” while listening to a Wayne Dyer audio CD in my early twenties.  The meaning and message struck me as true, helping guide my thoughts and actions as I developed from a big kid into a real adult.  Later, I discovered the poem was not actually written by Mother Theresa at all, but adapted, framed, and hung on the wall in her Calcutta orphanage.  She cared about its message enough to use it to empower the weak and marginalized children to whom she gave her life.

The Paradoxical Commandments are reprinted with permission.  © Copyright Kent M. Keith 1968, renewed 2001

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