Life has a way of inviting us – both subtly and sometimes not so subtly – to climb out of the self-imposed box that limits our growth. When we encounter someone – whether a parent, spouse, child, sibling, friend, employer, or colleague – who challenges us, we can learn to dig deeper, let go of our egos, and stretch in ways we never imagined possible. In fact, those people who rub us the wrong way or push our buttons most can usually help us achieve our greatest “growth spurts,” as we learn to develop new perspectives and attitudes.
- One of my relatives is a classic One. She was a serious, obedient student, who always listened in class and tried to do the right thing. Well, Hashem blessed her with a firstborn child who is full of life and laughter and considers fulfilling her many school obligations rather low on her list of priorities. “My daughter is in the seventh grade,” this relative observed, “and it is often downright uncomfortable for me to watch her hand in reports late and forget her homework. She doesn’t hesitate to leave class for a few minutes sometimes to air out and take a walk around the school building. She thinks it’s no big deal to sit detention or re-take a test that she could have passed the first time. In raising her, I’ve had to let go of my ego and my need to look like a good mother to others. I’ve had to separate my desire to have a daughter who performs well and makes me look good to the school staff from my obligation to teach her responsibility in a constructive way, while accepting her for who she is.
- A dear friend of mine is a deep and emotional Four. Her daughter struggles with severe anxiety, and she often finds herself advocating on her daughter’s behalf. She wants teachers to lessen her daughter’s workload so that the girl won’t become too stressed out or overwhelmed by school work. Recently, however, she’s had an epiphany. “I find it so distressing to watch my daughter in pain,” she observed, “that I’ve realized I often advocate for her in order to protect myself. I must try to be more objective so that I can do what’s best for her. That may sometimes mean pushing her to be a little stronger, to help her recognize what she is capable of, even if her growing pains may be difficult for me to watch.”
- A woman I know is a Six, who always sought security from others. She is indecisive and struggles to make decisions, even when her heart tells her what is right. Recently, she encountered some struggles in life that have forced her to develop a stronger sense of self and the courage to do what she knows is right, without relying on others for a sense of security.
In order for Ones to grow, they must learn to be less rigid and more flexible and to worry less about appearing like a good person to others. My relative’s daughter is forcing her to confront her inner demons and begin marching courageously towards change.
In order for Fours to grow, they must learn to take control of their strong emotional world and channel their creativity and emotional depth constructively. My friend’s daughter is teaching her to do just that so that she can finally achieve the growth she has always wanted.
In order for Sixes to grow, they must develop a stronger inner self and not keep looking to others for security. My acquaintance’s life is unfolding in ways that ensure she learns to do just that.
Of course, when life challenges us to change, we don’t always accept it graciously. More often than not, we fight it vehemently or ignore it completely. It takes courage and a true desire for personal development to recognize that a distressing situation may actually be a road sign on our life’s journey inviting us to grow. But when we choose to see the people and situations that challenge us as an invitation to grow, our journey can take us to places we never imagined we could reach.
How have people or situations in your life encouraged you to stretch and change?