I know that the idea of being broken sounds like a tragic thing, especially if it is a bone or cell phone. However, I am here to say that brokenness is one of the best things that could happen to a human being. Rumi once said that “You have to keep breaking your heart until it opens.” We humans are a complicated bunch and pride is the very thing that keeps us from being broken. Nowadays, image is such an important thing for people to keep up. Sadly, this way of thinking is distorted and destructive. If you look at the tiny writing on the side view mirror of your Toyota, it says “images in the mirror may be closer than they appear.” Image is regularly distorted and often found to be false.
When it comes to learning any skill or lesson, there is much to be debated about which method would achieve the most desired approach. Edward Lee Thorndike, the noted American psychologist responsible for laying the framework for modern educational psychology had many theories and one I find to be particularly effective and valid. According to his S-R Bond Theory, drill or practice helps in increasing efficiency and durability of learning. Essentially, in laymen’s terms, practice makes perfect. Now I would not promote any human effort as being perfect, yet the act of consistent repetition does increase skill level dramatically over time.
As a trained martial artist, I am reminded of a lesson my old Master taught years ago that still resounds with me today. One evening while practicing a certain series of movements, he became quite frustrated at the constant mistakes that the entire class kept repeating. He sat us down and told us about when he first began learning martial arts in China back in the fifties. As an American who spoke only English, the barrier to learning was as high as the Great Wall of China itself. He explained that since he could not effectively communicate orally with his teacher, the only way was to observe the movements and repeat what he was shown. Of course, this was a different culture and time in history which included being stuck with a bamboo stick when the example was not followed. I am not saying that I agree or disagree with this harsh style, but my teacher did make a very good point about the learning through observation and repetition. At first, he was clumsy and got “punished” frequently. However, over time his skill improved just by doing the same proper technique over and over. He got struck with a weapon less often and the movement began to become natural to him. Eventually, he didn’t even have to think at all about what he was doing, the movements became as natural to him as driving a car or tying his shoe. Given that he was learning combat skills, the ability to act in a moments notice without having to think was imperative to survival. Most new undertakings don’t have the same possible life or death consequences but the principle in the learning style rings true.
When I was 17 and traded my first car to someone for his but forgot that his was a five speed manual transmission. He dropped it off and we signed the title, yet I forgot that I had no idea how to drive it. In my enthusiasm for a “new” car, this major detail escaped my rational thought process. Fortunately for me, my mother learned to drive on an old stick shift Mustang and could teach me how. If you have ever learned this useful but somewhat archaic skill, the beginning is the “grind em until you find em” stage. The miracle is the fact that the transmission didn’t fall out from the jerking and grinding of metal gears for many painful hours. My mom probably still has a slight headache all these years later. However, eventually from repetition and consistent practice, the ability has now become as unconscious to me as breathing. I still drive a stick shift to this day and it is effortless and comes without the headache for my fellow passengers.
I believe that Dr. Thorndike was correct when he proposed, tested, and submitted this theory on educational psychology. Inversely, he also states that what is not repeated tends to dissipate. Returning to my martial arts training is a perfect example. I spent many years practicing the movements that my teacher taught me, but due ti injury and changing life responsibilities, practice reduced until it ended all together. I know that if I returned to the school, some ability would still be there, but just as an axe that isn’t sharpened, so is a martial artist without practice. If one doesn’t use it, he loses it. Perhaps not completely, but to a large degree with the passing of time. To improve, one must wash, rinse, and repeat regularly or risk deterioration
Have you ever noticed that people attempt to keep you in the gutter where you once were? We are left with a choice when the attack of jealousy enters our camp. We can let it burn our God-given purpose to the ground. However, if we want to rise up from where we came from, we can use at as fuel to light a fire that no man can extinguish. When we begin to turn a corner and start doing something different the haters begin their battle cry for blood. Our old patterns were predictable to them and as long as we stayed in our cage, they didn’t have to look at the things they would like to change but are too afraid of. Jealousy is rooted in fear of coming to terms with self and manifests in hatred, assumption, and anger.
Historical texts and events are strewn with many examples of how jealousy destroyed some and lifted others higher. Cain killed Abel because he was jealous of his brother’s standing with God as righteous. America’s Revolutionary War was laced in jealousy. The early colonists wanted freedom from British rule and the British wanted control and “their stuff.” Even Satan himself was once the most regarded angel in Heaven but wanted to sit in his Creator’s seat and thus, was cast down to Hell. The story of the Prodigal Son paints a vivid picture of this. The disobedient son, selfish and self-centered, wanted his inheritance immediately. His father gave it to him and he was off to spend it on booze, women, and pleasure. Until, one day he found himself broke, dirty, and desperate living in an actual pig pen. This “rock bottom” circumstance led him to come to his senses and return home, regardless of how he might be turned away for his behavior. Every day since the son left, his father waited for the son to return until that perfect day when he saw him walking toward home. The elderly father got up and ran to meet him. He held no record of his son’s disrespectful actions and ordered the best robe to be placed around him. He placed his ring on the son’s finger as a sign that he was still his son and he loved him above all the wrongs he had committed. He called for a feast to celebrate. This is where jealousy crept in. The other son who stayed home and obeyed his father got angry. How could you give him the best robe, ring, and have the prize calf slaughtered for the feast? I have always done right , he is the bad one. The Father loved each son equally, but the “good” one failed to see it due to his own pride and ego. How could you celebrate for this screwup? The father celebrated for his one son, once lost in darkness, for he was now being brought into the light.
Victor Hugo wrote one of the greatest pieces of classic literature ever, Les Misersbles. The main character, Jean Valjean was a prisoner at the beginning of the story. He was sentenced to 19 years in jail for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his family. The commander of the prison, Inspector Javert, always had it out for Valjean. After he was released, Javert made it his life mission to prove that Valjean could never change and attempted to sabotage him everywhere he went. Valejean went on to build a good life, become a mayor, and a respected pillar of the community. The inspector’s jealousy fueled his burning desire to prove he was right and Valjean would always be a thief. Until one day many years later, Valjean had the chance to kill Javert but showed him mercy and grace instead. Immediately, upon learning he was pursuing the wrong thing all these years, he committed suicide. He couldn’t accept the fact that he was wrong and that a man can change, regardless what he has done in the past. Jealousy will destroy the person consumed by it.
Human nature hasn’t change since the first man walked the Earth. Adam and Eve walked with God in Eden, and it was perfect. They were given free will and one rule…don’t eat from that one tree. However, we know how the story ended. At the root, they were envious that God was God and they weren’t. For a brief moment, the temptation to “bend” the rule came along with curiosity, and we have been trying to get back to the Garden ever since. Evil entered the picture along with its symptoms of pride, jealousy, and anger to name a few, and little has changed since.
Regardless of what you have done in your past, you still have a future. If you woke up today, your life purpose isn’t fulfilled and you are still here for a reason. Even our closest friends and family will sometimes criticize us when they see us climbing out of the hole that we dug through our own poor choices and decisions. We slip off the ladder when we waste time engaging with these people. We can love them and wish them well, but in order to move forward sometimes we cannot allow certain folks to join on our journey. One negative influence can pull us off the balance beam that we are now walking. Just remember, how others react to your success or your failures has little to do with you and everything to do with them. For too long you have been listening to what others think about you. As long as you aren’t harming anyone, be you and do it unapologetically. They may try to bring up the past but you don’t live there anymore. Moses murdered, Noah got drunk, David had an affair, and God still used them to do great things. In fact, He does his best work with broken things. Allowing yourself to be humbled by your circumstances allows God to do a great work within you, if you let him. If they are jealous and talking about you consider it a compliment for they are more interested in your blessings than the ones in their own lives. Are you going to allow the heat of jealousy to destroy you or mold you? The hotter the fire, the brighter the beacon. Shine bright!