Thứ Ba, 22 tháng 1, 2013

Aiming and Arrows

       My junior year of high school I heard something in a class that I've never forgotten:

"You can't see where or why people are aiming, only where they hit."

       When you factor in that this class was early-morning seminary, its all the more remarkable that I still remember it! So why do I?
       The answer starts a year before I heard that statement. In an interview for a school leadership position, I had to answer a question that really got me thinking: "If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?" Seems simple enough, right?
       I didn't grow up playing superhero or reading comic books, so my thinking was a bit out-of-the-box. If I REALLY could have one superpower, what would it be?? I can get by using cars and planes and--oh yeah--my feet to get around, so the power to fly didn't seem the most useful choice. And while invisibility would allow me to pull the best pranks in the history of forever, for the most part I like to be able to see and be seen. Reading people's thoughts? That was getting closer, but there are more telling things about a person than their thoughts.
       Later that day Mom and I threw around some ideas, trying to find the right way to condense and say what superpower I wanted and why. I decided I wanted one that would help me understand people. Finally, we settled on a superpower that would allow me to read two things about people: their intentions and motivations. I wanted to read people's hearts.
       Going back to the initial quote ("You can't see where or why people are aiming, only where they hit") intentions are where one is aiming and motivations are why one is aiming. The actions caused by one's motivations and intentions land like arrows in my life and yours. If I come across an arrow in the woods, knowing it landed in a tree trunk wouldn't tell me if the shooter intended the arrow to go into the trunk, nor why he or she let go of the bow string in the first place. If I could have any superpower, it would be the power to see why and where people are aiming.
       But alas, I cannot. I see so many people, including myself, get into embarrassing or hurtful--even devastating-- situations because somewhere along the line somebody forgot that where an arrows hits is only 1/3 of the equation. 

Sometimes the people who hurt us don't even clearly see the targets.

       Recognizing that I, and others, can only see where the arrow landed has been astronomically helpful in forgiving and deciding whether or not to take offense in the first place.
       Here's an example. For the most part my high school had amazing staff, from the janitors to the principal, but the financial secretary was infamous for being cranky and BOY what a stickler for rules! I had friends who dreaded going to see her. The first time I went to see her she lived up to her reputation, and as I walked away I asked myself, "Did I do anything to cause her grumpies?" The answer was no, so I let it go. Obviously, she has things going on in her own life and reasons for her attitude that don't involve me personally! Over the years I ended up having to interact with her on many occasions because of the leadership position I gained from the aforementioned interview. I tried to be cheerful, thankful, and aware of the rules; by my senior year she generally treated me civilly, and even started cracking jokes!
       When I need forgiveness, I try to be very honest about what my intentions and motivations were while still acknowledging the damage my arrow caused. In forgiving others, half the battle is won if I don't jump to conclusions and if I accept that I do not know for a fact why or where the offender was aiming.
       But I'll be honest: forgiving some people who have hurt me is proving to be more of a process than a single event. When I've been deeply hurt but don't know why the arrow hit me, giving the offender the benefit of the doubt does not necessarily take away the pain--in fact, it often intensifies the pain because I have to face what I'm feeling instead of hide behind a wall of defensive anger. Letting go of my desire to figure out the whys right now helps me manage the pain. Recognizing that stewing over why the person felt I deserved to be shot (or wasn't more careful about their aim) isn't the best use of my time. Ideally we find answers to all of the questions we deserve honest responses for, but this life is rarely ideal.
       What do you think about this quote? If you have already come to a realization of similar sorts, how has it helped you? What superpower would you most like to have, besides super beauty? You've already got that in the bag!


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