Want to know a secret? It is a belief about how the universe may operate. What if (those of you who know me well know I love this question!)…what if all of the things we think we need to do or be are merely vehicles used to get us to play together?

Here is what I mean: Families are where we first begin our learning journey. What if our biological urge to merge is really about bringing us together to be life and learning partners with different points of view? What if each child that comes into a family comes with desires to reinforce, teach or learn a particular thing or things? For example, a close friend who had very perfectionist tendencies bore a son with autism. Perhaps it was the best way for her to experience acceptance and unconditional love.

I witnessed this friend, who rarely had a single hair out of place—even while golfing in the rain—gradually shift her focus toward fewer competitive athletic events toward more loving and inclusive activities. I saw her heart soften, judgment diminish and the new person she became was a beautiful transformation, adding immensely to her humanity.

What if our partners, colleagues, and clients are there to reflect ourselves back to us in an unfiltered, revealing way? I can remember a particular day my partner was having a bit of drama at the office and came home really working himself into a pity party. In the midst of it, our teenaged daughter arrived home in a full-blown snit. It was a dramatic moment, complete with self-pity, blame and anger. After she stomped off to her room, he turned and looked at me in horror. “Oh my God! She showed me exactly how I’ve been behaving. I’m shocked at what this must have sounded like to you.” We laughed, and he was able to shrug off the work incident and even laugh at himself. Nothing I might have said would have carried the same impact.

Our relationships are the rich laboratory in which we are on an accelerated learning curve. Deepak Chopra has said in his programs on personal development that everyone needs a petty tyrant to learn from and if you don’t have one, go out and get one. We learn so much about ourselves through observing and dealing with them.

Wherever anyone pushes your buttons, you might ask:

  • What, exactly, is this person or situation teaching me? (assuming everything teaches us something adds value to every experience)
  • What is the most loving response I might offer for all involved, including myself?
  • How can I anchor the learning from this so that I don’t need to repeat it? (Have you noticed things keep circling around until we get the lesson fully?)

Sometimes, the lesson is merely contrast, to know our own preferences. Often we are learning there is much we cannot control except for the response we choose. Whatever happens, if it helps you become clearer, kinder, more loving and accepting of differences, consider the interaction and the person a real gift from an intelligent universe.

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