Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A Taller Tree Takes More Wind

I was watching a TV preacher that I like recently. His name is Joel Osteen. I really enjoy listening to him speak. I'd say I agree with about 95% of what he teaches, at least in his TV broadcasts. He is always smiling and always has motivating, encouraging and inspiring things to say.

In this broadcast, he was talking about dealing with criticism from others. His message was about the importance of realizing that not everyone is going to like you and that we can waste tremendous amounts of life energy if we focus on trying to make everyone like us.

One point that he made is that the more successful we are, the more we are likely to be criticized by other people. He talked about why this is true... sometimes jealousy over what we've achieved or what we have and sometimes it is just that by fulfilling our potential we shine a light on others who have not chosen to fulfill theirs. This can make them uncomfortable and even angry. They sometimes take it out on the one near them who has done what they have not done, or acquired what they have not acquired.

I think there are many reasons why people 'pick' on another person. I have experienced it first hand and I've witnessed it in the world around me. Often, people do want to tear down those who have achieved something great, because they feel jealous that they haven't done the same.

I think that anyone who rises above in any aspect of life is a natural target for those who would be jealous, envious or just plain destructive.

Once when I was in upstate NY, at a Catholic retreat center on the Hudson River, I was contemplating what it might be like to live in the public eye. In my own life, I seem to attract a certain amount of attention, and people seem to listen to what I say. The responsibility of that is never far from my mind. For whatever reason, I've been given a voice that resonates with people. It has, however, also made me a target, of sorts, for various people. Sometimes they feel rejected by me, because I can't give them the amount of time in a relationship that they would like from me. Sometimes they resent what I have acquired in my life. Sometimes people think that I've come by everything I have through luck... and discount all the work (both inside myself and in this world) that I've gone through to get where I am (both inside myself and in this world!) It used to get to me more than it does now, but I'm still working on this one.

While at that retreat center, during a 4 hour silent retreat experience, I happened to look out of my dorm window into a little rock courtyard. I saw an interesting site. There was a little seedling growing out of the rocks. It was fairly tall. All around the tall seedling, there was a circle of much smaller seedlings. The wind was really whipping that day. I noticed that while the smaller seedlings weren't being moved too much by the wind, the tallest seedling in the middle was being blown about quite violently.

It struck me that when you achieve some sort of stature in life, you will 'catch more wind.' That seedling in the middle was larger, stronger and it rose above the others... and it was getting whipped around by the wind. It comes with the territory.

This is so true in life. When you achieve something you've worked hard for, many will suggest you've been given an easy ride. People look at movie stars or those who have achieved great success and dismiss their accomplishments as luck and criticize them for their opulent lifestyles. Those who somehow rise above are often targeted, quite unfairly. Again, it comes with the territory.

I think this happens every day to all of us in some way. Achievement at school, at work, or in other arenas can make us vulnerable to the jealousy and mean spirited nature of other people. As Joel was saying this morning, we need to just "shake that stuff off" and focus on what really matters to us. We shouldn't waste a single second of energy trying to deal with the mean things people might say about us, or the ways that they try to minimize our accomplishments or our contributions. We need to literally rise above that negativity, and not get down in the mud and start slinging it back.

A taller tree will take more wind, but it has the deeper and stronger roots required to withstand that wind. And guess what, the wind causes it to cultivate deeper and stronger roots still. Those winds are what cause us to grow taller, stronger and more resilient. We are grown for and by our life experiences. We are cultivated to fulfil our destiny.

Next time you are feeling rocked by the wind, realize you too are being grown strong and mighty to fulfil your destiny on this earth. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise!

The scene from my dormitory window at the retreat center.
The taller seedling in the center was catching more wind.

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