Extreme Esteem: Many of the greatest teachers exist within our everyday life

  • May. 22, 2017 12:30 a.m.

“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains.

The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.”

– William Arthur Ward, American author

I have always had immense respect for teachers. In fact, I thought of becoming one when I was younger. Many of my greatest achievements and loftiest dreams had their genesis in a kind word or encouraging comment made by a teacher. My mother spent many fulfilling years working in the school system.

Lately, I’ve come to realize the greatest teachers won’t necessarily be found at the front of a classroom, although they could. The greatest teachers do not necessarily have a book or an audio product, although they might.

Many of the greatest teachers exist within our everyday life, though we may not recognize them as such. They can appear in the form of our significant others, friends, family, co-workers – even employers. They may also be among the assortment of people we encounter at restaurants, coffee shops, the supermarket, or on the street.

For the moment, let’s step away from the traditional concept of a teacher – that of a talented and dedicated person working in a classroom setting. Let’s move beyond the acknowledgement that many of today’s teachers are professional writers, speakers, and facilitators. Let’s even transcend the image of a great teacher coming down from the Himalayas in a flowing robe. Let’s think of everyone as actively engaged in the teaching process.

Is everyone aware of this vocation? No, and that’s OK – if the students are aware of the lessons. The individual on a journey of building self-esteem and awareness surveys the world from a different vantage point. For the person walking the path of enlightenment, each individual he or she encounters is a teacher.

I recall the comment a wise and empowered man made to me one day about his cruel and abusive father. He referred to him as the greatest teacher of his early life.

“He was a drunk,” I cried. “The man terrorized you and your mother.”

“True,” replied the man. “But you’re looking at the act, not the lesson.”

“How can a beating inspire?” I asked. “What can cruel words teach us?”

He went on to explain how everything and everyone we encounter in life can teach us a lesson if we’re open to receiving it. His father taught him by his living example how not to be a father, how not to be a husband, and how living a life filled with fear and regret could have a devastating effect on an individual and those around him.

This man chose to be the exact opposite of his father: a loving and supportive spouse, a gentle and nurturing father – someone who contributed positively to his community and the lives of others. Of course, that took awareness, and that took time as the man acknowledged. Admittedly, an uncomfortable way to a learn life lesson but a testament to the power of a different vantage point and a positive attitude.

Maybe you haven’t always accepted the lessons life has brought you or even recognized them. It’s easy to look back over the past and see only the act. If we focus only on the injustice, we can become angry, bitter, and perhaps repeat the experiences in our life.

“Teachers open the door,” says a Chinese proverb. “You enter by yourself.”

The good news is you can choose here and now to view past experiences from a different vantage point. You can decide to look past the act and find the lesson. With awareness and a healthy sense of self, you can discover the lesson in everyday experiences and recognize the great teachers as they pass through your life.

Life is about learning. Open your mind to the experience.

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