Monday, August 24, 2015

We learn by repetition, so let us learn together with compassion

I learn by repetition. I admit this freely to new acquaintances at work and in social situations. "By the way, I'm hard of hearing and I learn by repetition, so I hope you don't mind my asking your name again." Most people are very gracious when I tell them this and they don't mind when I ask their name again.

To me, the mere act of letting people know that I learn by repetition allows me the relaxation I need to learn their names. All I did was ask for help, and that in turn leads to relaxation for learning.

I bring this up because I have noticed that my children do the same things over and over again. The tread the same paths, they like to listen to the same songs, watch the same videos, say the same words or sequences of words, do the same tasks, etc, over and over again. They learn by repetition. They repeat what they do until they learn and/or become bored and find something else to do.

When I survey my own experience, I find that I get into a comfortable groove with habits and learn the processes or tasks of daily living by repetition. I make mistakes until I learn what works. I'm reminded of a friend who once told me this about standup comedy: We learn more when we bomb than when we get the laughs. I happen to agree.

So when I see people making a mistake, I let them learn from it. When ATT had all that trouble years ago with porting numbers from another carrier to their own service, I let them learn from it and remained their customer for many months afterwards. I apply this willingness to forgive to many vendors that I do business with. When they make a mistake in an ongoing business relationship, I let them learn from it. I don't terminate the business relationship for an infraction.

I do this with people, too. I've been quite forgiving of my friends throughout the years. This isn't to say that I've picked bad friends. This is to say that I want to treat people the way I want to be treated. I don't criticize my friends or loved ones for their mistakes. I give them the space to let them learn from it. I do this because I want the people most important to me to have the space they need to try again, to do better next time, to learn from their mistakes so that they learn what works. Most of all, I want those same people to give me the space I need to learn what works, too.

I turn now to love. I have a rather loose definition of love: Love is allowing others to grow to the greatest extent possible while doing no harm.

That seems so simple, but as so often in life, that simple principle is so hard to follow. We see someone do something we don't like and we feel uncomfortable with the feelings we have. So we try to change them, but that doesn't work because we can't change other people. I know, I've tried.

Now, as a father and a husband, I've had time to learn to live with others and learn to let the feelings pass - then I can take action if need be. Most of the time, I try to just let other people do what they need to do to learn. As long as they're not hurting someone else or themselves, I can just watch and ask if they need help.

There is a temptation among humans to distract ourselves or protect ourselves from our mistakes. Some people take up one form of addiction or another to lessen the pain of their mistakes. It's an easy trap to fall into because our culture encourages such activity so much.

The problem with trying to avoid the pain of our mistakes was revealed to me long ago by the following passage I once read, but cannot attribute: The lesson will be repeated until it is learned.

I found in life that I had a choice in response to mistakes. I could either avoid the situation where I noticed the mistake before or, take comfort in knowing that it's not the end of the world. I will more than likely get another chance to learn from my mistakes if I'm persistent and introspective enough to keep trying until I learn what works.

Live and let live. Let the feelings pass and then take action. Let my friends and loved ones make their mistakes and let them learn from them without criticism. They don't need any help from me to feel badly for their mistakes for, like me, they would do better if they could.

I live this way because I can't think of a better way to live.
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