Friday, May 1, 2009

Learning lessons the hard way

I've learned quite a bit in the past 9 months. Those who know me best know those lessons came at quite a high price. But that's what life is all about, I think. As long as we learn valuable lessons from the hard times, then they were worth enduring. Here are some things I've learned:

Lessons about love...
Love doesn't mean you have to give up who you are in order to stay in a relationship. It's just the opposite. When someone loves you, they love you for who you are - inside and out. They see your beauty and look past your flaws. They fight FOR you, not AGAINST you. They will want to protect you and will genuinely care about your welfare. They won't purposely do things they know will hurt you. If someone says they love you, but they treat you like the enemy, then they don't really love you. If they don't care about what's important to you, or worse, won't allow you to convey those thoughts at all, then they don't love you. If you lose your voice, you lose yourself. And if that's what the person is after, then it's not YOURself they love. It's THEMself.

Lessons about what other people say...
You can't control it. Here's a little nugget from the world of counseling: You can only control these things - your thoughts, your attitudes and your actions. You cannot control other people. You cannot control what they think, what they do, how they feel, or what they say. So the more time you spend worrying about, or trying to control, other people, the less time you have to enjoy your own life. Life can suck sometimes. But if you can see the beauty that God gives us every day, and you take the time to enjoy it - a pink sky at sunset, the laughter of a child, the comfort of conversation with a good friend - then everything else melts away. People are going to talk, and much of what they say may be untrue. But who cares?! If it's so important for them to take time out of their lives to spread gossip, then their lives must not be too interesting to start with. And I, for one, am not going to spend my precious time worrying about it. They're hurting themselves a whole lot more than they're hurting me.

Lessons about friends...
They are gifts from God. Your true friends will not only be there for you during the hard times, they will swoop in at your darkest hour, scoop you up out of the puddle you've become, and place you back on your feet. They will not only hold you when you cry, but will cry with you. They will stand beside you in your battles, fight for and with you, and celebrate your victories. I have many good friends. Those who have helped me the most during my most recent tough times are Beth, Donna, Kelli, Jeanne, Tamam, Annalisa and Betsy. I thank them from the bottom of my heart.

Lessons about time...
It really does help to heal your heart. It's not that the wounds you've suffered become any less real, but the sharp edges of the pain just become a little more dull with each passing day. I'm better today than yesterday, and will be better tomorrow than I am today. I'm a zillion times better than I was 8 months ago.

Lessons about honesty...
There's an old saying that goes something like this - When people show you who they really are, you should believe them. That one goes right along with this one - If a person's keeping secrets, then they have something to hide. You should never have to beg for honesty or trustworthiness. If a person lies to you once, he'll lie to you again. If your gut instinct is telling you something's not right, then lace up your track shoes and run as far and as fast in the other direction as you can. Your gut you can trust. A liar, you cannot.

And that leads me to this:

Lessons about forgiveness...
Forgiveness is hard. And necessary. If you don't forgive, then hate and anger will eat a hole in your soul. But here's the thing: Just because you forgive someone doesn't always mean you have to spend time with them. Something I've learned and now help those I counsel to understand, is that some relationships are toxic. The longer we stay enmeshed in them, the less healthy we become. Other people's issues can wreak havoc on our well-being if we let them. If a relationship is not good for you, then it's okay to step away from it. In fact, it's what's best. You can forgive someone, truly wish them well, but not remain close to them. Just because you forgive them, doesn't mean they won't hurt you again. Protect yourself. "Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life." Proverbs 4:22-24

3 comments:

ShirleyC said...

AMEN to all of your comments, Linnea. I think you will be a great counselor.

donnaab said...

This is one of my favorite posts of yours. I think because mostly I can see how far you have come in the last year and I am really proud for you. I know what hell you have been through and you are a much stronger person for all of it - more than I think you even realize. You are so sweet to mention all of us but we only do / did what we know you would do for any of us! I love you, girlfriend!

Linnea said...

Shirley -

Thanks so much! I've actually been counseling for just over 8 months (they don't let you graduate until you do the work) and it's a tough job. But I've certainly learned a lot, and hope my experiences are helping me to really help others.


Donna -

You guys are God-sends. I will never forget our slumber party, with Jeanne (the kitchen snob) cooking up fajitas, you packing the tunes, Kelli dancing (of course) and Beth introducing me to what has turned out to be my favorite chocolate candy (Bliss). And you are certainly right about one thing... all you ever have to do is call and I'm there!

Can't wait to come hang out with you in Memphis! Love and hugs!