By Beth Keil
My friend, Annie, recently blogged about a training exercise that had members recall an adult who made a difference in their life when they were a child. She refers to that person as her “cherry danish”. It got me thinking about my “cherry danish”. As my mind drifted through the people who have touched my life it settled upon Mrs. Barsley. Mrs. Barsley was my high school honors social studies teacher who gave me “D” on a paper with the words “YOU CAN DO BETTER”. It pissed me off. I never got a D before! My previous social studies teacher would have given me an “A”. HOW DARE HER! After I got over my pissy-ness I re-did the paper. I worked hard. I wanted to prove to her (and me) I could do better. Funny, I don’t remember the final grade but it wasn’t a D. Years later I realized Mrs. Barsely wasn’t concerned about me being angry at her for the grade; she was committed to calling forth my ability to do my best work, not in comparison with others but with myself. She was a teacher.
It’s interesting, isn’t it, how we can initially be so angry about something that can become an important life lesson. Our pride, self-image, and looking good become more important than learning something we need to know or can enrich our lives. We can displace our upset on another person who is just the messenger for that lesson. What if we listened differently? One way to do that is by responding from the Now, not from our Past. For me, there was something about not doing a good job (think “D”) that resonated with me and I needed to protect myself from feeling that way. What if the motivation for our behavior came from feelings of security versus “I’ll show you!” insecurity? What if instead of being angry at the messenger we could thank them for the lesson they’re delivering? Of course we may need time to come to that conclusion.
And what about the messenger? Have you ever had something to say but stayed quiet, or needed to be quiet and said something as you were more concerned about being liked than delivering the message? There are times when we it doesn’t serve the other person (or us) when we try to smooth things over so they (we) don’t feel bad. It can be challenging as a mom to let natural consequences teach my children as my reaction is to protect them. But it is effective and takes me out of the equation. There has been an over drafted checking account (fees included), colored clothes from mixing whites with colors, lunches or homework left at home, and missed opportunities because something wasn’t completed. Being a parent, like a teacher, isn’t about being liked. I’m raising my sons to be adults not children. Now do I always like it when they don’t like me? No. But I am willing to be their messenger when they need me to be.
So, who’s your cherry danish?