The Power of Experience

Day three  – in a row – of blogging. This has certainly never happened before, and it feels as good as my coffee tastes this morning. 

The older I get (as I approach the ripe age of 27, ripe being an apt adjective for this post), the more I realize that when people said “you won’t understand until you’re older”, what they’re really speaking of is experience. 

There are some things that you simply cannot learn without time and experience. 

This valued ingredient of maturity, experience, is also the reason why some people age and never mature. There are people so sheltered, who run and hide from the challenges, risks, successes and failures that life brings, and as a result fail to develop the depth of character that can come from experiencing more of the world. 

The majority of the unexperienced are narrow-minded, and lack empathy and respect. 

It is fairly impossible to be immature without being unexperienced. 

Here is the best illustration I have for you:

Growing up, I was quite sheltered, as has been previously discussed. This kept me from much pain, but also slowed my maturing, and kept me close-minded, arrogant, and self-righteous. 

I would hear about women who were married, unhappy, wanted a divorce, and I would be shocked, and make generalizations common to the church culture: “Well, she shouldn’t have gotten married if she didn’t realize marriage was work”. “Divorce is way too easy these days”. “They need counseling”. “She didn’t ever love him if she wants a divorce”. “If she prays more fervently and realizes her heart is deceitful, she will come around”. 

One woman left her husband, and weeks later was with another man. My brain processed: “Adulterer”. “Sinner”. “Slut”. 

My categories for right and wrong were limited simply to what I had heard was right. They were limited by my inexperience.

Years later, many years later, I left an abusive marriage. I was a shell of a human being. Destroyed emotionally, and terrified. I felt I had no value. I was lost and broken. If I had stayed in that marriage, I strongly believeI would have eventually killed myself (or been killed) from fear and depression. Very few people knew anything of that marriage but the happy exterior. The young me, the inexperienced me, looking in, would have been appalled that I left. Shocked that I wanted a divorce months after I left.

But it was right. 

Months after this, I was on the road to recovery in abuse counseling. I was dating. 

What. Dating? And still legally married. 

The young me, the inexperienced me, would have been stunned.

But it was right. 

Even more stunned when, after months of a few dates with various individuals, I met the love of my life, a gentle, amazing, kind, empathetic, patient, loving man, and he moved in with me, long after I left my ex-husband, but before the final processing date for the divorce. 

Technically, according to law, I was a married woman living with another man. Our separation paperwork agreement allowed for this, but my younger “conscience” would not have. Nor would the culture I grew up in, I’m sure. 

But it was right. 

Looking at every step of that journey, I regret none of it. I know exactly why every decision was made, and made in good conscience. Experience has taught me that many things which seem so very black and white are never so until you walk through them, alone, yourself; painfully, slowly, sincerely, with all of the emotional wrestling matches you will encounter on the way, and all of the incredible “AHA!” moments that experience brings with those painful struggles.

It is to my shame that I made so many harsh judgments of others growing up. The older I get, the more I learn to never judge what seems a certain way from the outside. Unless someone is hurting someone else or directly self-harming, no judgments are made. I cannot speak without walking in their shoes, and the likelihood is, because I haven’t had to, I wouldn’t be strong enough to understand the lessons they are learning, anyway.

Experience is the greatest teacher, and the most painful one. 

I note, painfully, the inexperience of people I know, as a reason for their judgment, arrogance, and self-righteous behavior. 

Purely and simply, people fear what they do not understand.

Put more clearly, they fear what they have not experienced. 

Fear drives people to judge, hate, and hurt.

Be slow to judge what you cannot understand, what you have not been called to experience. Respect the painful journeys of others, in their own uniqueness, with their own set of trials and understanding.

And pursue experience. Take risks, interact with people outside of your “experience circle”. Learn from them, learn to love and respect the differences, and release fears of the unknown. 

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