Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Experience is Everything

Recently I read a quote by Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach which said, "The simplest and commonest truth seems new and wonderful when we experience it the first time in our own life." Those words held the ring of truth for me, as nothing means anything until we experience it ourselves.

Motherhood is a prime example. When you are pregnant with your first child, you get every manner of advice from every possible source. You tend to smile and nod, filing some of it away and outright ignoring most of it, but always politely assuming that you'll end up doing it your own way. I had a crystal clear idea of what it would be like to be a mom, but of course the actual experience was radically different from what I expected.

All of life is like this. Until you walk the road, you have no understanding of the terrain, and the view, and the unique challenges and fears you will face. The older I get, the more I realize that instructing someone about something they haven't experienced is a useless exercise. Of course, we all share our lives with each other, and we aren't all going to do the same things, but experiencing something for ourselves is always more meaningful than being told about it or reading about it.

My faith has certainly brought this point home in a fresh way over the past few years. I see truth in a completely different way now, and it seems so simple and profound, and I can't believe I didn't know it before. Until we experience it, no amount of explaining or convincing is going to mean as much as simply tasting the water with our own lips.

I'm slowly understanding that it's not up to me to convince anyone of anything. There is nothing more powerful in human relationships than to share our experiences respectfully with each other, and be heard and understood. When a friend is ready to walk through something new, I can be there to commiserate or celebrate, and I don't have to do anything except simply be present to validate what is happening for them. These are the kinds of relationships that mean the most to me; where nothing is forced, but experiences are truly shared with each other and judgement is withheld.

This is freedom. To experience truth in a new way, to be changed by it and to share it freely with those we love without expecting anything in return. I am no longer afraid to believe new things, to experiment with new concepts, and to try out some fresh ideas. New thinking leads to new experiences, which eventually improves my character. I am becoming gentler and kinder as I understand in experience what I couldn't even see or imagine before, and I'm open to others experiencing new things as well. It's a beautiful thing, and I love that I have a lot of years left to live in this inspiring new way.

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