Specialness issues?

How different do you feel in relation to your students and pupils? How the same? What kind of judgments do you have of them that contribute to keeping you apart? How willing are you to truly join? A couple of recent encounters with students brought these questions front and centre for me, and I’d like to bring them up for discussion among us.

My experience was sparked by the specialness sections in the Text, which were a real eye-opener for my students as well as for me. Inspired by the teachings, I explored the issue with my students in a Sunday evening gathering. We started off by making a list of the ways in which we see ourselves as special; that is, either more or less, better than or worst than, superior to or inferior to.

Then we discussed an exercise in which we apply the different aspects of our sameness to someone we see as different and apart from us. These aspects are: same worth, same desire, same motivations, same mistake, same problem, same pain, same interests, and same goal and purpose. These all lead to the one main sameness: Same Self.

Ironically, that evening someone who rarely comes to our gatherings appeared, someone whom I have seen as the epitome of specialness. Needless to say, she is someone towards whom I have had judgements! I chuckled when she arrived, realizing that it was no coincidence that she chose to come on that particular evening when we were working on specialness. Then I realized that she was not only there for herself, but also to offer me an opportunity to apply this exercise to her and heal my own specialness issues. Well, when we reached “same pain,” tears welled up in my eyes and I felt my judgements about her begin to melt away. By the time I finished with “Same Self,” I felt nothing but love for her. I’m sure she felt it as I looked at her and gave her a big, heartfelt smile.

Just as if the Holy Spirit knew that I needed some more work on this, He sent me a new person the next week. She had called first to inquire about the group and ask for directions and when I asked her full name and email address so that I could send her details, I could tell she was reluctant to do so. However she did, and from her name and email address I recognized her as a well-known, high-profile, highly successful, award-winning, wealthy, classy business person–– everything that I see myself as not! I imagine that she was reluctant to give me her information, thinking it might very well influence me. She was right: it did! Feelings of being inferior and insignificant, kicked in very quickly and I wished that I hadn’t asked her name and address.

This all happened a few days before the gathering, so I had time to practice letting go of my concerns. Drawing on the experience of the earlier Sunday gathering, I practiced the “You Are Not Special” exercise off and on, and by the time Sunday evening came, I was actually looking forward to having her with us. I greeted her warmly when she arrived, and by end of the evening I felt only love for her and joy in her presence. I even felt that if she didn’t come back, I wouldn’t take it personally!

During the process I had realized that feeling inferior and different was my own brand of specialness. Thinking that this person would judge me and find me lacking had really been my own desire to refrain from joining so that I could remain separate and apart. It had almost kept me from experiencing and extending love. Worrying about how I appeared was self-centred, and while I was preoccupied with myself and with my image, I couldn’t totally fulfill my function and contribute to the bigger plan to share Jesus’ teachings and bring salvation to the world.

To add to my questions at the beginning, what have your experiences with this been? How have you dealt with your specialness issues, your sense of being different and apart from your students and pupils? Or do you even ever experience any of this? I look forward to continuing the discussion.

With loving thoughts,

Mary Anne