Learning life’s lessons: when, how, why?

There is this idea that we come into this world to learn some lessons. But what are these lessons? Who is actually learning them? And what happens once we have learnt what we are supposed to learn? Does life get easier? Or do we have to keep learning until we die? These are the questions I try to answer in the article below.


Learning life lessons is urgent, yet optional

One of the most important life lessons we need to learn is Forgiveness. Conveniently, we are presented with many opportunities to learn that during our lifetime. And stupidly, we almost never learn this lesson soon enough so we can enjoy the rest of life and live happily. We somehow mistakenly think that by forgiving we are doing someone else a favor. In reality, by not forgiving we drink our own poison waiting for someone else to die.

But why? What is wrong with us? Why can’t we simply forgive and move on? Why can’t we choose happiness over suffering? Quite simply because we want to be right! Effectively, we choose righteousness, any time any day. We’d rather be right than happy.

The thing is, very early on we humans develop an ego which sees the world from the perspective of duality. Consequently, the ego becomes a judge. Things are good and bad. They are right and wrong. They are black and white…  Now we have a wonderful sense of justice. We dish out judgements left, right and center. This is fair and that isn’t. This is appropriate, that isn’t… Of course, these are simply subjective opinions based on separation and duality. They are part of the big illusion that our ego supports and bring on huge suffering. But interestingly enough, the ego becomes addicted to this suffering; it starts to indulge the role of the victim. And it does so happily because there is a big pay off in this – the world’s injustice and unfairness turns into the biggest and most convenient excuse for everything in life. We are always right, it is never our fault, life and people are just so unfair, hurtful and insensitive. We are the legitimate victim. Granted, we suffer in the process. But oh! It feels so good to be right! It is our right to be right!! And to have an excuse for everything.

Now, you may think that this doesn’t apply to you; that you are inclusive, tolerant, patient, compassionate, sweet and forgiving; that you never assert yourself and your right to be right. To test this theory, ask yourself this: Are you experiencing any conflict or stress in your life? Are any of your parents, children, colleagues, friends, exes or current partner pissing you off? Do you get anxious or (passive) aggressive? If you feel conflicted in any way, it is because you feel right and you haven’t mastered Forgiveness.

All right, the next question you need to ask yourself is whether you are learning anything while you are feeding the righteous monster inside you. How is this righteousness working out for you? If you are happy, keep doing what you are doing. If you are unhappy and you have had enough of that, time to learn the biggest and most important lesson in life: give up the right to be right (otherwise known as Forgiveness). The sooner you learn this lesson, the happier the rest of your life will be. Conversely, the longer you take to get this, the more “unfair” life circumstances you will encounter so you can learn Forgiveness and move on. The choice is yours. You can get over yourself now, forgive and be happy. Or you can continue to feel right and keep increasing your bitterness for as long as you wish. It is actually not a must to learn the lesson of Forgiveness during your life time. You can just as well die bitter and resentful and the Universe has no problem with that (you yourself might, though).

Still feeling unsure? Ok, let’s look in more detail at the learning curve for the lesson of Forgiveness and its implications. Imagine a little baby boy. That boy already came with a script, a movie of sorts that he is going to star in during his lifetime and observe at the same time. The movie has already been shot but the boy is yet to extract the lessons of the story, the biggest one of which is Forgiveness. To trigger the learning, the script contains scenes of seemingly unjust events: the parents leave the baby alone and he “accidentally” burns a finger on the stove now sporting a scar for life; later on a school teacher accuses him “unfairly” of cheating on an exam and gives him a lower mark than “deserved”; a wife divorces him and “robs” him of most of his possessions….  What does our man do? Is he going to be bitter, resentful, play the victim role blaming life’s circumstances for his misfortune? Or is he going to be forgiving and live life happily? More importantly, if all of the “unfair” events are on the script, at what point is our man going to learn to forgive and how could that possibly affect the script? We say we are going to attract the same experiences until lessons are learnt. If the boy forgives the teacher for underscoring him, would that prevent the impending unfair divorce?

Actually, learning a lesson doesn’t really change the script. It simply alters your experience of it. Hence, the urgency to learn said lesson. All major happenings are already in the movie. For how long they will seem unfair to you (and trigger misery and unhappiness) depends on your observational skills, on your ability to remove yourself from the movie, see things from a neutral point of view and forgive. If you do that in third grade, the rest of the events in your life won’t bother you. You won’t look at them as something unfair. You won’t take life personally. So an “unfair” divorce won’t be experienced as a disaster. More likely, you will see the opportunity for growth pretty quickly – here you are giving up most of your possessions: wow, what a blessing! You can practice detachment and thus initiate happiness from within. Getting rid of what you have amassed is an excellent opportunity to make room for something new (and better). You have nothing to fear or be bitter about. You are happy either way.

However, if you didn’t learn forgiveness in third grade, you will have many other opportunities to do so – your movie is full of events that you will continue to observe as unfair until you change your point of view  and start seeing them as neutral. The movie is indeed neutral. You are coloring it with your attitude as an observer. Learn to observe neutrally and you will have learnt everything you need to learn.

Importantly, learning is optional and it is up to you to effectuate it. You choose when to snap out of your righteousness. In doing so you won’t avoid life’s challenging circumstances but you will spare yourself the suffering. Alternatively, you stay the offended observer of your own movie and you sulk until the end. The choice is yours. Things won’t change but you certainly can. Remember: pain is inevitable, suffering – optional. You can stop suffering now, all you need to do is give up the right to be right. Forgive!

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