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Principles Of Growth And Change

The appeal of the Personality Ethic is that there is some quick and easy way to achieve quality of life - personal effectiveness and rich, deep relationships with other people - without going through the natural process of work and growth that makes it possible.
It's symbol without substance. It's the "get rich quick" scheme promising "wealth without work." And it might even appear to succeed - but the schemer remains. It's illusory and deceptive. It's as effective as trying to get to some place in Chicago using a map of Detroit.

In all of life, there are sequential stages of growth and development. A child learns to turn over, to sit up, to crawl, and then to walk and run. Each step is important and each one takes time. No step can be skipped.
This is true in all phases of life, in all areas of development. It is true with individuals, with marriages, with families, and with organizations.
We sometimes look for a shortcut, expecting to be able to skip some of these steps to save time and effort and still reap the desired result. It is contrary to nature and only results in disappointment and frustration.
Admission of ignorance is often the fist step in our education. Thoreau taught, "How can we remember our ignorance, which our growth requires, when we are using our knowledge all the time.

To relate effectively with a wife, husband, children, friends, or working associates, we must learn to listen. This requires emotional strength. Listening involves patience, openness, and the desire to understand - highly developed qualities of character. It's so much easier to operate from a low emotional level and to give high-level advice.

Our level of development is fairly obvious with tennis or piano playing, where it is impossible to pretend. But it is not so obvious in the areas of character and emotional development. We can "pose" and "put on" for a stranger or an associate. We can pretend and get away with it - at least in public. We might even deceive ourselves. Most of us know the truth of what we really are inside; and those we live and work with do as well.

I have seen the consequences of attempting to shortcut this natural process of growth often in the business world, where executives attempt to "buy" a new culture of improved productivity, quality, morale, and customer service with strong speeches, smile training, and external interventions, or through mergers, acquisitions, and friendly or unfriendly takeovers. They ignore the low-trust climate produced by such manipulations. When these methods don't work, they look for other Personality Ethic techniques that will - all the time ignoring and violating the natural principles and processes on which a high-trust culture is based.
But at that moment, I valued the opinion those parents had of me more than the growth and development of my child and our relationship together. I simply made an initial judgement that I was right; she should share, and she was wrong in not doing so.
Perhaps I superimposed a higher-level expectation on her simply because on my scale I was at a lower level. I was unable or unwilling to give PATIENCE or UNDERSTANDING, so I expected her to give THINGS. In an attempt to compensate for my deficiency, I BORROWED STRENGTH from my position and authority and forced her to do what I wanted her to do.
But borrowing strength builds weakness. It builds weakness the borrower because it reinforces dependence on external factors to get things done. It builds weakness in the person forced to acquiesce, stunting the development of independant reasoning, growth, and internal discipline. And finally, it builds weakness in the relationship. Fear replaces cooperation, and both people involved become more arbitrary and defensive.
And what happens when the source of borrowed strength - be it superior size or physical strength, position, authority, credentials, status symbols, appearance, or past achievements - change or is no longer there?

Had I been more mature, I could have relied on my own intrinsic strength - my understanding of sharing and of growth and my capacity to love and nurture - and allowed my daughter to make a free choice as to whether she wanted to share or not to share. Perhaps after attempting to reason with her, I could have turned the attention of the children to an interesting game, taking all that emotional pressure off my child. I've learned that once children gain a sense of real possession, they share very naturally, freely, and spontaneously.
My experience has been that there are times to teach and times not to teach. When relationships are strained and the air charged with emotion, an attempt to teach is often perceived as a form of judgement or rejection. But to take the child alone, quietly, when the relationship is good and to discuss the teaching or the value seems to have much greater impact. It may have been that the emotional maturity to do that was beyond my level of patience and internal control at the time.
Perhaps a sense of possessing needs to come before a sense of genuine sharing.
Many people who give mechanically or refuse to give and share in their marriages and families may never have experienced what it means to possess themselves, their own sense of identity and self-worth. Really helping our children grow may involve being patient enough to allow them the sense of possession as well as being wise enough to teach them the value of giving and providing the example ourselves.


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