Cultivating My Spirit

Two Life Living Lessons from Mom

The two most memorable lessons I learned from my mother are:

1. Treat others as you want to be treated.
2. You can’t hate for anyone.

Nearly everything I learned from my mother, I learned from watching her live; observing how she interacted with and treated others. Occasionally, I ignored one of her lessons and took my cues from how people treated her – dismissively, disrespectfully or abusively. When I responded to them in kind, mom would rebuke me with a great deal of irritation, “You don’t do what other people do! If they jumped off a bridge would you follow behind them?”

I’m sure a couple of times I responded with some slick comment, like, “It depends on how high the bridge is….” In my youth I didn’t understand why she got so angry with me for defending her against people who claimed to love her but treated her so wrong….

What I’ve learned since is, I am like a mirror and a sponge. I soak up everything in my environment and reflect it back to its source. Usually with an intensified twist. So, when I fought mom’s attackers back (usually verbal), I was fighting for a knock-out. I was never interested in back and forth or tic for tac; I wanted to shut the other person down. Had my mother allowed that destructive, errant willfulness to develop, I would have perhaps grown into an angry, hateful, vengeful adult. Emotionally crippled. Spiritually deficient.

On the flip side, when I reflect back any measure of love, kindness, or appreciation within my sphere, it is magnified with a radiance that creates a special space for relationships. My mother re-focused my rare aggressive energy onto things I could do to improve difficult situations, “Instead of doing this, try doing that,” she would say. I didn’t understand it at the time, but she was training me to be a very tolerant, forgiving and resourceful person. Her position was not that ill treatment should be tolerated, however, only that it shouldn’t be responded to with more wrong behavior. In other words, don’t stoke the fire – turn the other cheek. I used to tell her I was out of cheeks.

Mom died fifteen years ago – I was barely a legal adult, but she prepared me well for life. Amazingly, I am still learning about her and still growing from the lessons she imparted so many years ago. I appreciate her more with each year I live. Her most powerful lesson to me was that not even for her should I dishonor myself (the God in me) by returning evil for evil.

If you can’t even hate a person who’s mistreating your mom, then who can you hate?

No one.

Every day I work on being the best person I can possibly be in every interaction I have. I admit it’s a struggle sometimes. Some days my best may be a mere fraction of what my best on better days may be. But I always strive to acknowledge and root out any destructive willfulness that may be looking for a knock-out. I thank God for the loving nurturer He graced my life with. Mom gave the best of herself and she nurtured the best in me.

“Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.  ~ Matthew 7:12

“You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury:  ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also.  ~ Matthew 5:38-39

“You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.  ~ Matthew 5:43-45

Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it.  ~ Proverbs 22:6

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