This last week I have been composing a letter to my son to receive whilst he is away at camp. All the boys will receive a letter from a significant male in their lives telling them about what it means to grow into manhood and what that young man means to them. It’s a powerful rite of passage where an older male voice can give direction and a message of love that hopefully will become a treasured message from their dad, their uncle, their brother – any man who has travelled this path that lies before them.
It got me thinking about what sort of letter I would have liked to receive from my own dad. And then this thought caused me to wonder, do we take enough time to distill what matters to us and share that with the people who matter most to us? My own dad has been dead for 5 months now and he never really shared what really mattered to him. He never really let us into his life. And so it’s hard to miss something that was never shared.
It should matter who we share our lives with and it matters to me that my son know this and that I get to share my love for him and with him. In the letter I wrote I distilled a couple a life lessons I have learned so far – I’ll share with you what I am learning.
As I have got older I have realised that people who are authentic – just being themselves – are the ones that are most interesting. When people try to be good, or clever, or to fit in you feel their faked-ness. Trust yourself and learn who you are. The most attractive thing about people who know who they are is that others can be clear about what you stand for and where your boundaries lie. They know how they can treat you and they know when they have gone against what matters to you.
If you don’t know this about yourself others wont know what they should and shouldn’t do to you. It took me a while to learn this. I was so busy trying to make others feel okay about who they were and how they felt that I put my needs away. I constantly felt compromised – and I thought this made me a good man. It didn’t. I had to learn that helping people see what mattered to me and how they can honour that and share in that feels so much better than letting others define it for me.
My second lesson is this: You deserve love. When people hurt you (and they will) or people mistreat you (and they will) remember that is not about you. That is about them – their pain, their small mindedness or their inability to show generosity. It is not a sign of something lacking in you. Stay sure of the fact that you deserve love and that love will find you.
We should fall in love with people who love being with us and we should experience as many of the colours in love as there are. For each stage in our life we will need different kinds of love. Don’t worry about who gives the love and for how long they will give it to you but do make sure it is love they are giving you and that it is expanding your life and not taking away from your life. That’s the clue – love expands your life.
So much of my life I have wasted energy worrying about things –will I be successful, will I find love, will I be good at this or that – worry, worry, worry! In the end, life was served up to me and I have an inner strength that has allowed me to cope with a great deal of pain and hardship but has also afforded me such happiness and such material and emotional wealth. I am still learning this last lesson: Trust life and hold on to life gently. You will cope with what life sends your way and it will send a full spectrum of experiences your way.
These were three lessons for my son – I hope they mean something for you and that they can interact with the lessons that you have learned from your life. And that’s the key here. This is your precious life and you must live it the way you believe is right for you. But most all learn everything it has to offer.