The Wisdom of the Lion Part 2.
Lions only push their children to keep them safe. If they eat when it is not the right time we push them away to save them being hurt by other adult Lions who know the order. We teach them the way of the Lion so that they can fend for themselves.”
There are places in the human world where pushing is seen as normal. People push into parking spaces, push into queues, push in front of cars and push people out of the way when they want to go faster than the crowd.
Countries where employees carry the weight of their employers heavy expectations. Employers push their staff to produce more. Stay later. Arrive earlier. Teachers push their students to get the highest grades.
Wives and husbands push each other to talk more, talk less, buy this, sell that, go here, stay there, be more attentive, less outgoing, more understanding, thinner, stronger, kinder…. It goes on and on.
Parents push their children to succeed, to excel, to work hard, and to be who they think they should or could or ought to be. Some push their children to win academic competitions, win scholarships, play sport that is not their child’s passion, dance well, sing beautifully, play the piano, violin, saxiphone, read and write beyond their years. As a parent of 5 I too have had my pushy moments. I remember I dearly wanted one of our children to attend a Rudolph Steiner school thinking this would suit him perfectly. We drew mandalas and used Steiner crayons and I enrolled him into the school. He was asked to come to an open day and he was not so interested but I pushed him trying to convince him it would be wonderful. Two weeks later I received a phone call informing me that our child would not be suitable for the school. “And why is that? “ I asked in a rather shocked and insulted voice. “Because, when we asked each children why they wanted to come to our school your child gave an answer that showed us this was probably not the right school for him.”
Incredulous and at a loss to even imagine what he could have said and preparing my speech to chide this child for a lost opportunity I asked what in the world did he say.The woman on the phone took a deep breath and said, “He said, he did not want to come to this school but his mother did!”
Sometimes it takes at eleven-year-old child to remind us that we are pushing too hard. I thought I was being encouraging but indeed there is a thin line between pushing and encouraging.
What is the difference?
As verbs the difference between encourage and push is that encourage is to mentally support; to motivate, give courage, hope or spirit while push is (intransitive) to apply a force to (an object or a person) such that it moves away from the person or thing applying the force. As a child at school I was fascinated by the definition of work. It applies to pushing too.
Work done is defined as product of the force and the distance over which the force is applied. Work is done when a force is applied to an object and the object is moved through a distance. For example, when you lift a load you are applying a force over a distance so you are doing work. However, no matter how much force you apply to something that is not movable, no amount of effort will result in work. When we push people in directions that they resist and refuse, according to physics we have actually done no work at all regardless of how much effort we have put into the situation. Pushing is futile.
We live in a performance driven society where what we do, is often more highly regarded than who we are. We have over-looked the importance of allowing our children to be who they are. We need to look and listen to our children and those people in our lives to understand their gifts and talents, their passions and their choices.
We need to teach our children the true meaning of being warm-hearted. Our two-year-old grand daughter, catches our thrown kisses and puts them in her heart. Her mother, our daughter, bought a book called, “In my Heart”, by Jo Witek, and it brought both our grand children a deeper understanding of the emotions–happiness, sadness, bravery, anger, shyness and much more. The Dalai Lama says, “Warm-heartedness reinforces our self-confidence – giving us not a blind confidence, but a sense of confidence based on reason. When you have that you can act transparently, with nothing to hide!”
If there was one thing I would wish for every child it would this. Someone they trust to sit with them just before they go to sleep and to share together 3 things for which they are thankful today, and three people they are thankful to have in their life. Of course it doesn’t have to be three things or three people. It can be simply one thing or one person, but how important it is to have the opportunity to share something that touches the heart.
When I was studying Gestalt Therapy in San Diego many yeas ago with my teachers Erv and Miriam Polster we had one whole day devoted to the value of Kindness in therapy. I know of primary school that teaches kindness as a subject. Yes, we do have schools that are now teaching Mindfulness and that is wonderful however, surely Kindness is as essential to a a well lifed life as Mindfulness.
If kindness was a daily practice in school and in the home, we would have no difficulty knowing the difference between encouraging and pushing our children. Even when we want the best for our children we would recognize our wish for them may not be their wish for themselves.
There is so much to learn about kindness. Sometimes we need to develop our awareness in order to understand what is needed, so we know the right questions to ask. This is kindness. Sometime we have to give consequences for our children’s unacceptable behavior, and that is kindness too. Kindness is knowing what to say and knowing when to say nothing. Kindness is the art of giving anonymously. I know a religious leader whose ability to raise money for charity is exceptional and everyone who knows him knows this about him. I also know a woman who lives a very quiet humble life and has for years offered her garage to be a collection point for used clothes. People come and go all day giving and taking as needed. She makes sure no one is embarrassed. No one knows whether they are giving or taking. Her kindness is anonymous, quiet and humble.
Kindness is also about altruism and the notions of goodness and empathy. Altruism is not only reserved for humans, animals and insects also exhibit altruism. Some animals will call the alarm when they know there is danger at the risk of their own lives. We have seen impalas, grazing with zebras and will alert the zebras if there is a lion near by.
In California, animal behaviourist Paul Sherman did thousands of hours of field work with Belding’s ground squirrels. When something dangerous comes into their vicinity such as a hawk or another terrestrial predator some of the ground squirrels, stand up on their hind legs and give a piercing call. The other ground squirrels run for safety. They go down into their burrows and they get out of the way. The alarm caller will eventually do that but it pays the costs by making itself the most obvious thing out in the environment and some get taken by predator, in order to save all the other ground squirrels.
When a child shows courage, warmth, empathy and kindness it is our responsibility to acknowledge them and encourage them to be the best of human-kind. After all surly that is the goal. Each soul is born with a gift, a talent and blessing and whether it is to teach or be taught, to heal or be healed, to see or to be shown , we are all here for ourselves and for others. No exception.
Until next time.