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Opening to Life

Friday, July 17, 2009

It is a funny thing about life:
if you refuse to accept anything but the best you very often get it.
-W. Somerset Maugham

There is a lot of really good information about self worth in the book, Everyday Enlightenment: The Twelve Gateways to Personal Growth, by Dan Millman. Instead of picking through it, I've decided to post most of the chapter about the first gateway - self worth. Here's the opening story:

"Aaron and Charlotte, brother and sister, are born into a two-parent, stable, middle-class household. Their parents are educated, hardworking, caring, have no alcohol problems, abusive habits, or guilty secrets. Aaron grows up successful - earns good grades, wins a junior chess championship, plays sports, and later earns a good income to support a family of his own. Charlotte does moderately well in school but chooses unsavory friends, starts using heroin and other drugs, turns to theft and prostitution to support her habit, which leads to jail time and the hell of withdrawal.

Not all siblings are as different as Charlotte and Aaron, but some of us take higher roads than others. In families all over the world, children grow up differently, make different choices, lead different lives. Many factors shape our lives, including beliefs, support systems, motivation, relationships, family dynamics, fate, or karma. But the central premise of the first gateway is that our sense of self-worth is the single most important determinant of the health, abundance, and joy we allow into our lives. In the case of Aaron and Charlotte, his behaviors demonstrated his higher sense of self-worth. But the story doesn't end there.

Charlotte, who had always loved children, later found new purpose, meaning, and opportunity for service in her role as a dedicated mother of two. As her children grew, so did her sense of worth. Charlotte got her life together and is doing better all the time. Not all stories have such a happy ending. Thousands, even millions, of us in all walks of life make self-destructive choices because we have lost touch with our own worthiness to receive life's gifts."

My thoughts on this story are as follows: There is a judgment here - and I don't like it. The judgment is that because Aaron has an outwardly "productive" life, and has made socially acceptable choices, his life is "good." Whereas, Charlotte's life was not. What did she gain and what did she learn from her experiences? And isn't possible that those experiences give her a depth and an understanding, maybe even a compassion that her "successful" brother doesn't possess?

And what about Aaron, does a family, a career, and money automatically ensure happiness? How can we, on the outside, even begin to know what's going on inside of someone else? Why do we make those kinds of assumptions based solely on appearances? Maybe Aaron is a real jerk! Maybe his life is about to fall apart in a big way because he's so self absorbed!

Also, I'd like to know how we can assume that someone has good self worth just because they have the outward appearance of success. Maybe Aaron has very little self worth and has to surround himself with the symbols of worth (money, career, family) in order to feel worthy. Maybe he doesn't feel good about himself at all.

And here's a question - why do I feel such animosity towards Aaron anyway, he's not even a real person!! Interesting! Wow. That got me thinking! What about you? What are your thoughts on this little story?


msvb19 said...

good question. you can find a lot of people that have a appearance of a good life that turn out to be the nasty folks around. it can be the simpliest act that shows how much compassion someone has which shows how much they are worth. it is not always the money they donate.

Two Feathers said...

When it comes to having a "good" life - I think money is a definite plus, but it's not the ONLY thing that's important. I guess I just have issues with the judgment implied that money = self worth. Some people surround themselves with money because they have to have it in order to feel worthy...

On the other hand - and it's a big hand - if you don't value yourself, if you don't FEEL worthy, it's easy to sabotage what chances do come your way.

There must be a difference between feeling good about yourself and having money because of it, and not feeling good about yourself and having money because of THAT too....

Interesting... I'm still mulling this one over, it looks like.

Two Feathers said...

Oh, and msvb19 - I agree totally - there are people who can give you money and make you feel like dirt under their shoe ... and then there are people who can simply smile at you and suddenly you feel like a million bucks...

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