Humility, giving may be our last challenging lessons

10.2. Opinion. hands2By: Sommer Danielsen

You are enduring an 18 year long incubation stage. Every day you are given a schedule to follow, and guidelines for doing it. You are given the education system as a hand to hold while sifting through information you may need to be competent and successful in the future. You are given restrictions regarding where you can be and how late you can stay.

All of these aspects of youth are intended to serve you as you work to accomplish two things. First, to develop a self with strong character, and second to better understand the world around you. However, we’ve all misused the opportunities of youth at some point. This time in life can quickly morph into a stage of self-absorption. Somewhere along the lines we lose the idea of development, and lean more and more into the idea of self. We continue leaning into that idea without the basis of understanding we need.

Living solely to serve ourselves can be observed from a young age. As a child, we fought for what belonged to us; in grade school we fought to be first. Now in high school, fighting for ourselves does not occur in such simple scenarios. Unfortunately, we often serve ourselves by creating a sense of superiority at the expense of others.

Verbally attacking the actions or opinions of our peers places ourselves on an illusory pedestal. For whatever reason, we insist that the pedestal exists because we experience a feeling of affirmation regarding ourselves and our lifestyles. However, trying to stand on a nonexistent pedestal only results in two things. One, a horrendously embarrassing levitation attempt. And two, self inflicted injuries.

We are destined to fail from time to time. It’s OK. Like a four-year old on top of a playground, trying to defy gravity can be quite enticing. But if youth is intended as a time to grow and shape our character, there are things we must do to keep our feet on the ground. There are things that are required of us if we want to promote our own growth and support the people around us who are doing the same.

Taking on a selfless disposition is the only way to simultaneously develop a stronger self and understanding of the world around you. It is a great paradox: not trying to help yourself will ultimately help you the most. Every day there are opportunities to put this idea into practice.

One of these opportunities (which is in abundance this time of year) is in discussion and debate. Before constructing your illusory pedestal, take time to seriously consider why others have formed the opinions they are presenting. Could their beliefs be plausible? How do their personal experiences shape their beliefs? Would you come to the same conclusions if you were in their position? Knowing the answer to these questions can help you refine your own opinion and also present it more tactfully.

Active selflessness can’t occur without strong intuition. In order to care for someone else, you have to pay attention to what brings them joy. From that, you can infer what acts will be meaningful to them. Being intuitive of the needs of others is a never ending duty. A simple example would be bringing someone coffee in the morning after you know they’ve had a long night. Other times you might have to decide what kind of comfort to give people enduring serious hardships. Will words, acts of service or giving time mean more to them? Learning to adapt to the needs of others will build a strong social intuition. This can help us navigate through so many challenges in the future.

The biggest takeaway from selflessness is incandescent joy. Caring for someone brings that person so much happiness that it is contagious. After you experience this, you will long to make it a central principle in your life. One thing you’ve probably realized by now is that satisfaction is fleeting, but it endures far longer when it is contrived outside of yourself.

You’ve been told what to do. You’ve been told where to go. You’ve been told when to leave. In the midst of everything drilled into our minds, it appears there is one concept we haven’t quite grasped. We can’t defy gravity. We can’t stand on illusory pedestals and hail ourselves the greatest. So why keep trying? Plant your feet on the earth, look beyond your own worries and live selflessly.

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