Unseen Behavior

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Have you ever walked into a large factory or a work site where construction was going on? The noise can be deafening and people have to nearly scream in order to hear one another. The law requires those in such environments to wear ear protection of some type to avoid permanent hearing loss. Can you imagine taking a nap in such an environment? Yet the men and women who work in these places do it all the time with ease. In the midst of all the pounding, sawing, hammering and machinery they fall asleep on break time and get a few minutes of much needed rest.

I have some experience with the above. In the 1980’s I lived near a Strategic Air Command base in Plattsburgh, NY. Twice a day at 8am and 8pm the base commander ordered every jet on location to fire up their engines. When that happened a deafening blast of thunder vibrated my apartment and rattled every window. Whatever I was doing at that time basically came to a stand still until it was over. I lived there for nearly two years while getting my Masters degree. By the time I moved, I got to the point where I would automatically stop talking the moment I heard the first jet engine fire up. At times I could even sleep through it and never blink an eye. That noise, and the behavior change it instituted, became a normal way of life.

Strangely enough, after I took a job in a small rural high school teaching the upper level Biology students, that behavior persisted. I would be in the middle of a lecture or conversation, and whenever I heard a loud engine fire up in the background I would automatically stop talking. It could be in mid sentence with a fellow teacher, or in a classroom full of students during a lab dissection. I did this without even realizing it, until the day a student asked me about my “petite mal” seizures. No one had said anything to me because they all had concluded I was an epileptic!

Isn’t it strange how we can learn to adjust to almost anything, and may not realize it, but others notice and are impacted. Once we embrace a situation that is harmful, dangerous or even deadly, and decide to stay there, something happens. We can become so accustomed to the abnormal, that we actually learn to relax or “fall asleep” in it and it simply become a way of life. The boss that is abusive, the child that is rebellious and defiant, the angry husband, the obnoxious neighbor can all rule a part of our life for so long that we simply accept it and adapt our own behavior in order to survive.

The thing is, once we are finally out of that situation, our survival mechanism is still silently running the show. It becomes a guiding force in the background of life that unconsciously directs every move. Others who see the behavior will believe one thing, even if the reality of who you are is quite different. Think about it for one moment, my students and fellow teachers saw me as an epileptic with a mild handicap. That assumption was so strong that no one ever questioned my odd behavior. The result was that it never changed. Then one day, a brave student pointed out the obvious and asked me how long I had been dealing with my condition. I am sure the questioning look on my face must have been quite something.

We all need that one brave student in our life. We need people around us who just have to ask those hard, uncomfortable questions. Don’t misunderstand what I just said. I do appreciate those who accept me for who I am. However who I am to them is not necessarily who I really was designed to be. These are not the people who are going to make me grow or change. If I am to be successful in life, and live a life that positively impacts others, it requires me to have people nearby who will challenge my motives and question my actions. For me to fulfill what I was made to do, I have to have those around me who will ask about an apparent handicap and then look right in my face to see my reaction.

Without these people in our lives we all are doomed to accept things as they are, and we will find excuses for why we have never changed. Will you live forever in the shadow of what could have been, simply because you refuse to face what is? Not me! I have had to face some pretty difficult realities about myself, and others, but it has always been worth the pain. Most of all such things have always caused me to grow, and that is the highest order for any life.

Let me encourage you in this Spring season to make a decision to change. Find those who will honestly evaluate you, and then hear what they have to say. You may be shocked at what is dragging along in your life that others see and you don’t. Let those you trust ask the hard questions, the painful questions and then determine to embrace reality. Only from that clear perspective can you begin to discover the real you. When all is said and done, why would you want anything else? Now go have a great day!

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