Columnist Ann Landers’ once received the following: “Dear Ann: Your advice reaches millions of readers daily. I ran across these rules for being human and have been passing them along whenever I get the chance. I’m not sure where they originated but I believe they deserve a place in your column. . . .
The Rules for Being Human
“You will receive a body. You may like it or hate it, but it will be yours for as long as you live. How you take care of it or fail to take care of it can make an enormous difference in the quality of your life.
“You will learn lessons. You are enrolled in a full-time, informal school called Life. Each day, you will be presented with opportunities to learn what you need to know. The lessons presented are often completely different from those you THINK you need.
“There are no mistakes, only lessons. Growth is a process of trial, error and experimentation. You can learn as much from failure as you can from success. Maybe more.
“A lesson is repeated until it is learned. A lesson will be presented to you in various forms until you have learned it. When you have learned it (as evidenced by a change in your attitude and ultimately your behavior), then you can go on to the next lesson.
“Learning lessons does not end. There is no stage of life that does not contain some lessons. As long as you live there will be something.
“There is no better than here. When your there has become a here, you will simply discover another there that will again look better than your here. Don’t be fooled by believing the unattainable is better than what you have.
“Others are merely mirrors of you. You cannot love or hate something about another person unless it reflects something you love or hate about yourself. When tempted to criticize others, ask yourself why you feel so strongly.
“What you make of your life is up to you. You have all the tools and resources you need. What you create with those tools and resources is up to you. Remember that through desire, goal setting and unflagging effort you can have anything you want. Persistence is the key to success.
“The answers lie inside you. The solutions to all of life’s problems lie within your grasp. All you need to do is ask, look, listen and trust.
“You will forget all this. Unless you consistently stay focused on the goals you have set for yourself, everything you’ve just read won’t mean a thing.
I was impressed with the author’s understanding of life but surprised when I read Ann’s response. She said, “Thanks for those Rules … Like all such ‘rules,’ there are several flaws. Life is unfair, and no set of ‘rules’ can be applied to everyone. Physical handicaps, mental limitations, genetic glitches and just plain lousy luck can and do show up and make a world of difference. What this world needs is fewer rules and more compassion.”
After reading her response, I realized Ann’s belief system was very different than mine. One of my main beliefs in life is there are no mistakes, only lessons. I could not be comfortable with my belief in a loving, caring, omnipotent God and believe otherwise.
Ann’s statement that “life is unfair” reminds me of a phrase a friend and I often use as an attitude check with each other—the phrase is: “If that’s what you believe!” The reality is that if you believe life is unfair, life will feel unfair. If, however, you believe you will learn lessons, and that a lesson is repeated until it is learned, I think you will feel very differently—perhaps even serene! You are not a victim.
Another fundamental belief of mine is that I will only exist in this human form until I no longer need to—until I have learned all my lessons. The only way this belief is comfortable to me is I believe life is everlasting—that this is not “it.” I need to remember that this is just the current school, and I am attending it in order to learn my lessons. When I’ve learned those lessons, I will graduate and move on.
“Physical handicaps, mental limitations, genetic glitches” also showed Anne and I see life differently. Think of the stories you have heard where someone with a handicap has beaten all odds. I’d bet that if you asked the person they’d tell you they learned some valuable lessons along the way. So perhaps their handicap became an chance for growth.
Since we are human with free choice, our decisions could take us down some rough paths. Here again, we could play the victim or take control. At these times it is imperative to remember God is kind and does not create pain—we create pain through our choices. There are circumstances that make this statement seem illogical, and a discussion on the proof of this belief system could fill volumes. Sometimes we just can’t explain things—just take them on faith. We are human and can’t always follow the cause and effect of a situation to its end. Only God can see the whole picture. This is when we use our faith to assure us there a reason and know God never gives us anything we can’t handle.
My father was in a wheelchair most of my life—obviously a situation Ann would see as unfair. But was it? Dad showed me that even though life doesn’t always give us what we want, we have to make the best with what we’re given. I’m sure my dad felt frustrated sometimes, but don’t we all?
Many years ago I watched a relationship of mine turn into something other than what I originally envisioned. My first reaction was to believe the other person had changed. This may have been true, but the real key was to take responsibility for where I was and look at the evolution of the situation. Ending the relationship without learning anything would simply lead me to repeat it. Everything happens for a reason; a lesson is repeated until it is learned. If we don’t get it the first time, doesn’t it stand to reason that the next time it will hit us even harder for us to hear it?
It continually amazes me the amount of serenity I get by accepting responsibility for bringing into my life everything I have—good and bad! The good affirms I can do it. And the “bad,” well, if I it exists in my life, that means I need to discover the tools to make it positive. Such power that creates! Don’t get me wrong. It’s not easy, but then the best things in life never are.