Have you ever noticed that no matter how many times somebody tells us, no matter how many different ways they explain it to us, no matter how many warnings they give us- we still have to learn the hard way?
As much as I enjoy watching Dr. Phil and Iyanla Fix My Life, they both relay the same message that “if you knew better, you would have done better.”
They say to the young man who beats his wife,
“You were raised in a violent household, therefore you didn’t know how to respect women.”
Or to the young teen mom,
“You’re mom was a teen mother too and didn’t demonstrate how to conduct yourself as a woman”
As much as that makes perfect sense, it’s sadly not always the case. It’s not that if we knew better, we would do better. It’s not that if we were raised to be respectful we wouldn’t be so disrespectful. It’s not that if we had positive role models we wouldn’t be making these poor decisions.
Most people have to make a huge mistake in their life in order to get the lesson.
It’s that, by nature, we are stubborn and curious. It is human nature to want to “eat the forbidden fruit” and find out if it will really hurt us. If change were as easy as obeying a command, then we’d live in a perfect world, right?
Some people argue that “if they had turned their life over to God, they wouldn’t be making the same mistakes over and over.”
Although God’s Will prevails over all things, He also gives us free will to bump our heads and make mistakes. He hands our minds over to ourselves until we’ve hit rock bottom. He puts us in “time out” and stops our blessings when we don’t take heed.
At the end of the day, we are responsible for our own decisions. All the church going, bible reading, and motivational speaking in the world cannot stop a person from doing what they want or behaving out of character.
Most people have to make a huge mistake in their life in order to get the lesson. These mistakes are meant to be learning experiences and vehicles for change, REGARDLESS of one’s circumstances.
Regardless of the fact that her father is a preacher, she STILL got pregnant at 13.
No matter how well his mother and father raised him, he STILL ended up selling drugs.
No matter how many times her mother said she was a queen, she still sold her body for money.
And they all KNEW BETTER.
(Can you imagine not knowing better? And still coming out unscathed? Man… That’s God’s divine grace and nothing less.)
We were not built to be passive participants in our lives- succumbing to being a victim, using our circumstances as a crutch or excuse to explain away our behavior. We are meant to make these mistakes so that we can learn from them.
Reflect on the last time you learned a life lesson that you’ll never forget. Who taught it to you?
My guess is most of you learned the hard way. On your own. You made a mistake after your girlfriends told you he wasn’t no good.
After your hero encouraged you to chase your dreams.
After your therapist gave you the tools to cope with your stress.
You did it anyway.
We do it anyway because the best way to learn is through experience. Who better is a teacher of tragedy than someone who’s been through something tragic? What better is a successful business than one that survived the recession? The point is, sometimes unless you’ve been through it yourself- unless you’ve felt the pain, trauma, loneliness, and emptiness- you won’t fully understand or learn the lesson.
Don’t get me wrong- you can still learn through reading, listening, and observing. But true change comes when you’ve made the ultimate mistake and everything you thought you knew is gone.
I thought I knew it all. I thought I had the answers, Sway!!
But when my marriage was hanging on by a thread, I realized I had made a huge mistake. I realized all that I had took for granted and my “right-fighting” was going to land me in a dark lonely place.
I would not have changed if I wasn’t pushed to that point.
I actually would have been completely unaware of my behavior. But until I crossed the line- almost to the point of no return- I would have thought it was everyone else’s fault but my own.
The good news after making such a huge mistake is knowing that you can learn and change from it.
We can do our best to guide people, be a role model and give them the tools to succeed. However, until you’ve tested it out and made your own choice, until you know that deep down in your heart, you had to find out for yourself just how bad things were, until you’ve done the worst,
NOW you can do better.