How do you know when you have learned a lesson?

  • Wednesday, August 14, 2013

One of the most heart wrenching stories I have ever heard was a domestic violence case.
A man had constantly beaten and physically abused his girlfriend so many times she had to run away from him. But as many times as she ran away, she went back. He would come pleading and begging even to the point of tears.
Upon her return, he would be a model boyfriend, but after a while he would slip back into his old ways. The pattern was always the same.                                                                                                                           
The people who tried to rescue this young lady would beg her not to go back to the abusive boyfriend because they were afraid he might kill her. She never disagreed with their counsel. But he would come back with apologies, sweet words and promises that were as empty as his life. And she would fall for it. 
This is a drama that played itself out over a period of many years, to the point that it wearied the patience of family members. The question they so often asked was, “When is she going to learn?”
The funny if not tragic thing is that she always said, “I have learned this time.”                                                                                   
How do you know when you have learned a lesson? Pain usually forces some people to learn and make changes. During the pain they usually swear that they would not do what they did before. But after the pain has subsided they often throw caution to the wind and they repeat the same mistake over and over again.                                                                                                                                                             
When someone tells me about an experience they have been through and they use that as evidence that they have changed, I am usually not persuaded. Because someone has been through hell does not mean that they have learned to avoid hell. Some of us have to learn the hard way and even then we don’t learn.                                                                                                                                       
The severity of a person’s experience is not necessarily an indication of how well they have learned a lesson, or even if they have learned. The real test as to whether someone has learned a lesson is not what they do or say when everything is going well or life is tranquil. It is what they do, the choices they make when they are really tested.
For the young lady above the real test as to whether she had learned her lesson wasn’t what she said when she was being abused. Neither was it what she said shortly after she escaped from the abuser. Whether she learned or not was demonstrated when he came knocking on her door and tried to persuade her to come back to him.                                                                                        
What we say is not always what we do. Talk is not an accurate indicator of resolve. I know where you stand, and I know you have learned, only by the choices you make when the test is great.

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