Which is better for learning – the textbook, or the workbook of exercises and exams that goes with it? Most of us would answer that neither is better – you need both to really learn the subject being taught. The textbook gives us the basic instructions, information and resources, while the workbook lets us test our learning in application. The workbook is no good to us without the lesson first, but the lesson, unapplied to real world experience, is just about as useless. Knowing about something isn’t the same as being able to do it.
Life is the same way – none of the spiritual information and learning we get in life does us a bit of good without a chance to practice what we have learned in real-life settings – both to measure our capacity to learn what has been taught and to judge our ability to use what we’ve learned appropriately and well. You need both the teaching and the real world, hands-on training in order to say you have mastered a subject. Those who listen to their preachers every church day, who watch nothing but inspirational TV and read their holy books all night, but who turn up their noses at a chance to show compassion, unconditional love and God’s own prescribed forgiveness on the worst of the worst (without expectation of anything in return, but merely for the sake of being more God-like in their behavior) – these people know, but they have not truly learned.
Mother Teresa taught us by example how to tend and love equally the worst refuse of mankind. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave us instruction on non-violent alternatives to revolution. Jesus, Buddha and Mohammad provided stories, sermons, insight and wisdom to help guide us in our days. These people (and others like them) have been our textbooks – providing us with the guidance, the information and the knowledge we need to make choices about how we live.
But the Hillside Strangler, the guy next door with the foul mouth and the drug habit, drunk driver on prom night, the 9/11 hijackers – these are our workbooks, giving us the opportunity to put into practice what we learned about selflessness, compassion, love, kindness, non-violence, respect and forgiveness. They test us in ways that academic speculation and mental rehearsals never can. By our reactions or responses to their deeds and after-effects, we get the final grade on how well we took these lessons of love to heart.
How did you score?
(c) Soni Pitts
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
She is the author of the free e-book “50 Ways To Reach Your Goals” and over 100 self-help and inspirational articles, as well as other products and resources designed to facilitate this process of personal growth and spiritual development.