One of the principal ways we can help others to achieve new inner growth is by outgrowing ourselves. To help us understand the wisdom in this new idea we must first consider another equally important idea. A great portion of the way we "see" ourselves -- images of ourselves from which we derive our sense of self -- is actually a provision of our relationships with friends and family. Consider, for instance, that much of the way we measure the value of ourselves is secretly connected to those values we attribute to others close to us. For real-life examples of this pivotal idea we need only look into any close relationship of ours, but for now I'll draw upon the relationship I share with my wife in order to illustrate this particular point.
However I may look upon myself (perhaps as being kind, strong, or whatever the self-picture may be), this self-image is very much connected with an image of my wife that I hold in my mind's eye as being loving and wise herself. After all, I wouldn't take much stock in seeing myself as being worthwhile in her eyes (or those of any other person, for that matter) if I didn't believe that she was worthwhile, too. But the "danger" here -- in this largely unconscious, complex set of relationships shared with those closest to us -- becomes painfully obvious the moment one of these persons exhibits behavior "unbecoming" of them according to our vested idea of what makes them valuable to us. For in this same instant we perceive them as having shifted even slightly right or left of our designated center (for them), it is we who suddenly find ourselves feeling unsettled, angry, or strangely fearful.
At some point in our lives we have all dealt with uncomfortable moments where an unexpected or unwanted change in one near to us brings up some unpleasant reaction in us. Of course we are usually very quick to find fault with this person, but here is the real, invisible story. The reason we fall under the rule of these reaction-driven dark states, and then find ourselves trying to dictate the life direction of the "offending" person, is that something within us feels thrown for a loss. To understand why this is true, consider as deeply as possible the following insight, for it holds special clues to how we can outgrow our own painful condition as well as how we can help others to go higher.
The instant we perceive someone stepping outside "the box" of who we have always known them to be is the same moment in which we begin to fear the loss of who we need them to be in order to maintain our familiar sense of self. And, if we are honest with ourselves, this is the same moment in which we attempt, one way or another -- either through promises or pressures -- to get them back into the box.
In other words -- and please keep in mind that our controlling behavior is unconscious to us, as no conscious person would inhibit the growth of another's being -- something in us does not want this person to change. There is a sensing it will cost us too much -- a great "personal" cost that we will cover in just a moment. The unconscious self that sleeps in us can intuit that allowing such a transformation to take place will demand a similar transformation within us. And the truth be known, this same false nature wants nothing to change other than the deepening crystallization of its own imagined greatness... a greatness that includes its outrageous image of how accepting it is of changes in life and in others!
These findings all point to one key idea. There is one essential ingredient missing in most of our relationships -- one that is definitely required if we wish to continue in our own development and help others to do the same. What is this powerful catalyst that only we can provide for each other? Room in which to grow.
We can help others reach higher by simply agreeing, consciously, to give them space to go through their changes even when these changes may challenge our sense of self and its well-being. As just one simple example of how to help in this way, we must each learn to keep ourselves quiet when the actions of someone close to us start to disturb us. Why is this new kind of self-silence so important for the growth of both parties involved?
To begin with, the disturbance that we feel in these moments is caused by a tremor in us. This is to say that our shaky sense of self is an effect of some picture we have held of this person as it hits the ground and shatters. Apart from our children, whom we must guide through their developing years, we need to learn to leave people alone with their decisions and corresponding actions. There is already a truth, a wisdom that supports this conscious course of action.
We already understand that no action of ours ever goes without its commensurate reward. This eternal principle is best known as karma, the great, inescapable law of cause and effect. This means it is our own nature -- as the backstage parent of what prods us along in life -- that determines what we experience as our life. So too is it with our family and friends... each receives what he or she is -- no more, no less. This truth tells us why we must not only give them room to make the choices that they will, but then leave them alone to realize and experience the unique results of being who they are. How else can they learn and grow beyond themselves?
Understanding these truths mandates that we back off from being secretly on everyone's back, that we give them the inner room they need to grow and discover themselves. The difficulty here is that in order to give others this space they need, we must first make room within ourselves. To state this same idea differently, we must remove ourselves from our habitual inner places of judgments, opinions, and knowing better than anyone else. We have always called this place that must be left behind our "self."
This conscious sacrifice of self -- of who we conceive ourselves to be for the sake of who our friend or loved one is yet to be -- gives new meaning to the beautiful ideal of "laying our life down for our brother." This is how we help others to help themselves go higher... by daring to grow beyond ourselves.