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In Your Face

May 29, 2013

“The one thing more difficult than following a regimen is not imposing it on others.” Marcel Proust

The first thing that I thought of was about reformed smokers and evangelicals of any stripe.  It is so hard for the newly enlightened to not spread their wisdom to everyone else.  We all do it.  We live the “Amazing Grace” of “I once was lost but now I’m found” though replicating the knowledge in our family and friends.

But the last thing we want to see is someone who knows better than us.  We are doing just fine, thank you.  Begone. Off with you. 

I watched a man standing by the bedside of his dying father.  The father had spent a lifetime smoking and was now reaping the rewards of various chronic and incurable respiratory problems.  As the son stood there watching his father slowly sink away, he said, “I can’t take this.  I need a smoke.” and then left to join the other social pariahs in the outdoor smoker’s lounge. 

To many of us, we are still shaking our heads trying to reconcile those two separate lines of logic.  The reality is that the son was not ready to face the consequences that were clearly and obscenely right in front of him.  It was not until two years later that the son decided to go smoke free and successfully quit smoking.

We all need the wisdom of others who were there before us to guide us successfully, but is the burden of learning on the teacher or the student?  Buddhist teaching tells us, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear”.  Ecclesiastes 3 tells us, “To everything, there is a season”. 

As the teacher, we have to deliver the initial lesson, but once the lesson is delivered, we have to walk a few steps away and wait.  When the student is ready, they will join the teacher and ask for more.  The teacher cannot interfere in the process of the student becoming ready.  There will be stumbles and mistakes by the student that the teacher could have prevented, “oh, if they had only listened to me…” and parents of adult children know this impotent feeling all too well. But as Milton said, “They also serve who only stand and wait.”

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