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Recognising Teachable MomentsAugust 7, 2015
I am so grateful for the Virtues Project strategy of Recognizing Teachable Moments, especially when I disappoint myself by indulging in a sudden tempest of temper, and growl someone I love. The idea is to take whatever happens as a life lesson and actually learn from it, instead of blaming others, letting it become a bad habit, or drowning in guilt. Instead of shaming ourselves we name the virtue we need and start to practice it.
To me, the only healthy purpose for guilt is as a signal for change, a red flag that tells me something in me needs Divine help to transform. Recognizing Teachable Moments is to never give up on spiritual growth, engaging in a continual, scrupulous examination of our behavior, and taking full responsibility while seeking God's grace and forgiveness. A man once came to Abdu'l-Baha, the son of the Prophet-Founder of the Baha'i Faith and said, "You speak of God's forgiveness. How can I ever believe I will be forgiven for all the violent and dishonest things I've done? And how can I tell if God has forgiven me?" Abdu'l-Baha smiled at him and said, "You know you are forgiven when you no longer do those things." No matter how old we are or what we have done in the past, it is never too late for redemption by the Ever-Forgiving Lord, as long as we make amends for the past by behaving differently in the present.
To me this attitude of the Teachable Moment requires impeccable integrity and unfailing tenderness toward ourselves and others. How do we live up to such a standard? First, we need to take an honest look in the mirror after a mistake. Mistakes can often be our best teachers IF we have the humility to learn from them.
My beloved brother Tommy came for a visit last week, and I was shocked to discover that even at my age, old family patterns die hard. We had a wonderful time, despite a meltdown on my part. He came late to a meal I had carefully prepared to be ready at the time he had asked for. This may not seem big to you, but for me it triggered old family dynamics in which I felt used but not heard, needed but not loved. I was really embarrassed hearing myself growling him loudly. Was that supposed to help him enjoy the meal? Oy! My teachable moment was not to prepare breakfast before someone has arrived, and also detachment from past hurts. It really was no big deal.
So I took it into prayer the next day and felt an amazing gentle love surrounding me. Proverbs 2:2-5 says "…incline your ear unto wisdom, and apply your heart to understanding; Yea, if you cry after knowledge, and lift up your voice for understanding; If you seek her as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures; then shall you understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God."
Asking for wisdom and seeking understanding is the first step in a Teachable Moment, trusting that self-awareness is a great treasure. The fear of God, in my humble opinion is not being afraid of God but wanting to please our Creator, and dreading disappointing him by wasting the virtues with which each of us has been entrusted.
We cannot fix our own sin (being off the mark) by focusing on someone else's. Blaming someone else for our part of the problem just covers over the truth we need to see about ourselves.
The real test of whether or not we receive the gift of the Teachable Moment is that we don't sin again in that way. It takes faith, self-discipline, and purity of intention to change, yet it brings a sweet reward. Unity is restored with others, and we have come back on the path of pleasing our Creator.