I am not the Messiah. I am a very naughty boy.
Fifthly, we all get things wrong, we all do things badly, we all say stupid things. We are not gods.
Mind you, for many cultures, gods also got it wrong too. Who knows when it all went the other way and people decided that gods never made mistakes and that we were, in effect, gods on this planet)? Who knows too when we began holding each other (and, often ourselves) to the rather untenable standards of divinity? Anyway, this fifth and final truth is there to remind me that even when I am on top of the world, I’m bound to bugger everything up – and that’s not a cause for despair or surrender…it’s just part and parcel of the human condition.
The final truth on my stone of life reminds me that life is never all good. Any expectation that it be all good is going to be the source of misery, dissatisfaction and relentless searching for something to plug the gap. None of whioch I really want or need in my life.
There has never yet been a person who strode the earth who did not get something wrong; who did not balls things up from time to time; who did not open their mouth and then shudder as they heard the bilge that came pouring out. And yet, invariably, people feel dreadful when they get things wrong; they feel that work done badly means that they are people done badly; they beat themselves up over what they said and how it might be construed.
Poor people! Right? Actually, the truth of the matter is that the truth points to our collective ineptitude. It doesn’t say, I get things wrong; I do things badly; I say stupid things.It says that we all do these things. This is not accidental. When I am calm and collected, I am the first to accept all of my failings and shortcomings. I am less likely to see the saving graces of others. So, while my fifth truth may look like an exercise in humility and self-awareness, it might just as faithfully be transcribed as stop being such a demanding hypocritical bastard.
Do you see where I am getting at here? It’s dead easy for me to excuse my faults by saying, Ah! We all get things wrong! Never mind! Onwards and upwards! But the temptation to see other people as lazy, unprofessional, intellectually challenged tosspots who just don’t know how to meet my exacting standards is always there. It helps me feel better about myself because whereas they can’t see how rubbish they are, an analytical paragon such as me can; it also helps me to feel better about myself because I now feel like a god among mere mortals. So truth number five is saying, Whatever they do, you’ve done just as badly…if not worse.
For those of us who work in education, this is a very relevant truth. The students who just don’t get what we’re talking about…we were them once. The colleagues who never seem to break a sweat and who disturb the tranquility of the staffroom…we are them from time to time. The manager who sends an email that really gets our backs up…we’ve pressed the send button on many emails that had just the same effect. The guy at the conference who is talking nonsense…that’s you, that is.
So why get angry? Why judge? Why seek to punish? Why complain? Why heap misery upon misery? Of course they’re going to get i wrong; of course they’re going to say something annoying; of course they’re going to be lazy and feckless; of course they’re going to get the wrong end of the stick; of course they’re going to insult you; of course you’re not going to get the recognition that you deserve. THEY’RE ONLY HUMAN! Everything that annoys you about other people is a characteristic that other people see in you. I can guarantee you this one simple fact.
Just as you almost definitely think that other people are wrong to see you as feckless, annoying, lazy, insulting etc, the other people will think that you are wrong to think the same of them. What will keep this mutual incomprehension alive is you thinking that it is somehow real. It isn’t real at all. It’s just opinion and conjecture rattling around the grooves of your cortex like a greased marble on a shiny metal maze. It makes a lot of noise, but ultimately it’s a waste of time. More importantly, for the purposes of this blog and this series explaining my truths, it will make you stressed and miserable.
The values that correlate with this truth are patience, forgiveness, compassion and compromise. For patience, I remind myself daily (and forget almost daily as well) that time, distance and other perspectives are always helpful. For forgiveness, I remind myself that while we all hurt each other from time to time, we usually do so because our minds are playing tricks on us; for compassion, the daily reminder is that other people’s suffering comes from precisely the same delusions that mine does; and for compromise, I tell myself that life is not a game to be won, but an experience that we share.
I’ve no idea how helpful it has been for me to share these truths with you. I did so because I wanted to exemplify how my Stone of Life was populated. I struggled to get to the stage where I actually had a Stone of Life, so thought you might benefit from seeing what somebody else’s looked like. You may disagree with these truths; just as I may lead my day-to-day life out of sync with these truths, but they are still true to me and I recognise that my suffering and stress comes from living life out of sync with them.
Like Steve Peters, I can’t urge you strongly enough to write your own truths down. Limit yourself to a small number and review them daily. When one begins to sound a little bit dodgy, change it or remove it all together. Try, hard as it may be, to live your life in accordance with your own personal truths – a short reflection at the end of the day will help: five minutes is probably all that it takes.
Good luck and, although this series is over, please don’t be a stranger…I’ve enjoyed the return to this blog and it would be nice to see both of you here again soon!