Maybe I just wasn’t listening, but in spite of all my many good teachers, much of my education for life has come the hard way. Here are some lessons I’m still learning in the age-old school of experience:
1. Becoming a full-fledged grownup takes time and work. I was in my forties when I realized how much I still thought of myself as the novice-come-lately, an inexperienced newcomer who had to accomplish twice as much in order to be seen as a competent and worthy adult. Not that I advocate being arrogant with others, just comfortably equal. I wish I had claimed that "just equal" status much earlier.
2. An ounce of prudence can prevent a ton of regret. I know mistakes are normal, and we can learn something from each of them, but I’ve also learned from experience that I don’t want to learn everything by experience. I’ve seen too many people desperately wishing they could go back in time and undo an impulsive decision they made in the past. I know I’ve made my full share of equally dumb moves, which only adds to my conviction that prevention is a lot wiser and better than cure.
3. Becoming a good human being is better than just being a great human doing. I’m glad for some of the good work ethic my parents drilled into me early on, but for too long I’ve tried to burn the candle at both ends, and have sometimes become over-involved in too many good things. In my old age I’m learning that spending quality time in spiritual reflection and with my friends and family is just as important as getting more stuff done.
4. Establishing lasting influence is better than exercising temporary control. I’m slowly learning that pressuring people with lots of intense arguments is a huge waste of time. People are more open to hear our points of view when we do more reflective listening and less reactive and defensive talking.
5. Maintaining good support networks is the best social security we can have. Since economies can fail, stock markets crash, and even whole nations collapse, our best long-term insurance is having communities and congregations of people so committed to each other that no one is in need unless everyone is. To the extent that we care for and nurture such communities, they will care for and nurture us.
Now if I could only earn some kind of degree for all that learning.