The #1 Best Advice I Was Ever Given
You would think that the best advice you’d ever received would change over the years. But I received my best advice as an adult many years ago, and it remains true and valuable today.
I have certainly received my share of advice over the years, whether requested or not. People just seem to want to tell me what to do, whether I’ve asked for advice or not. I’ve had strangers in parking lots walk up to me and make suggestions! But I’ve tried to live my life freely and openly, and there is sometimes a price for that.
It didn’t help my case that I was a member of a generation with little respect for authority figures (which, as it turns out looking at those in charge today, was very intuitive of us). I also, despite a party-girl reputation, have a tendency toward reclusive behavior, especially when hurt or rejected by others. And yet, I have a core group that has stayed with me over the years. One of them gave me this advice. Ready?
People always come first.
Surprised? Certainly not something you’d put on your front door plaque, though you might go to war for it. And we have. That simple phrase has grown and changed in my head so many times. It has stopped me from many angry words and slammed doors. It has caused me to think 5 years down the road and ponder where I’d be without the person currently frustrating me, and to consider how I’d feel in their shoes.
Those who know me are probably laughing. I have slammed doors and thrown things in frustration – thankfully not at people, but because of people. I am known to be a bit of a hot-head. I am very vocal in my opinions, and often offer my advice to others. I’ve even been know to say the hated words “I told you so,” but equally accept those words back when appropriate.
I cherish these words of advice because of what it has allowed me to experience and accomplish. You can’t feel uncomfortable once you realize it empowers empathy. I have shared with individuals the deepest levels of their sadness and grief. I have exchanged with friends our most embarrassing or heart-rending experiences. I have learned the skill of taking a break from distraught friends’ unending complaints and repetitive stories without breaking the friendship itself. And when necessary, I have learned to end unhealthy friendships without insulting the offenders.
I jumped at the chance to tell a long-ago enemy (when he called me as part of a 12-step recovery) exactly what his actions had caused in my life, my emotions, my career and my self-confidence. I had needed that more than he needed my acceptance. People always come first, and that sometimes includes me.
You and I are people too, and sometimes we have to come first in order to continue our good work and deeds. Trust me, you’ll know the difference.
What was your best advice? I could probably use it, unless it was ‘eat more fish.’ I’m allergic to fish.
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