Every Experience Is Our Teacher

By Martha Smock

Every one of us has had experiences to meet that at first seemed difficult but proved to be times of growth and gain. Through these experiences, we discovered new strengths in ourselves, we unfolded new powers and capabilities, we experienced a closer unity with God, and we relied on God with a faith greater than we knew we possessed.

Every experience is our teacher; we learn from the persons, the events, the circumstances that surround us. Most of the time we are not aware that we are learning because we are more aware of the struggle we are making. Like the child struggling to get to her feet, to learn to walk, we do not see that our efforts are teaching us and freeing us.

We are being molded and shaped, not by outer circumstances or by other persons but from within, by our reactions, our thoughts, our feelings, our attitudes. And yet, unless we have experiences to meet that make us seek deeper for understanding, reach higher for light, we do not develop our spiritual nature. To realize this truth is to give thanks for experiences, even the hurtful ones; it is to give thanks for every person, even the hateful ones; it is to see everyone and everything as somehow a part of us; it is to be taught by all.

Sometimes it seems that we choose the hard way of learning. Like the prodigal son, we may seem to be taking the pleasant, easy path, but like him we find ourselves in a far country, feeding on husks, lost and unhappy. How many times has every one of us, like the prodigal son, decided not to stay down or depressed, not to remain in poverty of mind, body, or soul. We too have arisen and gone to God. And out of a sad or bitter time we have found ourselves; we have entered the circle of God's love; we have realized that always we have been one with God, with our good. The unhappiness is behind us; we are stronger, wiser than before; we know now who we are and where we belong.

If all things and all persons are our teachers, why is it that we do not always learn the lesson that is there for us? Why is it that we seem to go through the same experiences again and again?

A person, for instance, may have a most disagreeable and unpleasant neighbor. Nothing seems to help the situation; the neighbor only seems to grow more hateful. So the person moves to get away from the neighbor. In the different locality, with different neighbors, he often finds it to be the same old story. A new neighbor appears on the scene, as hateful as, if not worse than, the one before.

Until we meet a situation from within, learn from it, grow through it, we shall find it facing us again and again—in a different shape and form perhaps, but essentially the same problem.

We do not need to meet the same problems again and again. We have great capacities for spiritual growth within us. The more we are aware of ourselves as spiritual beings, the more we realize that we are one with the Mind of God, the more we shall grow and unfold and come into the possession and use of our full powers.

There are splendid potentialities in us all; we are meant for greatness and goodness. We have a larger work to do than we can envision. Just as true education is not a cramming into the mind of knowledge from without but a drawing forth of the innate wisdom that is within, so our powers are developed as we let go of outer striving and work inwardly.

Prayer is a way of calling into expression all the God-powers and God-potentialities that are within us. True prayer is a lifting of our thoughts and feelings, a lifting of our whole being to God. True prayer is the realization of oneness with God, the realization in which the little self drops away and we stand tall in the divine Presence, we know ourselves as children of light.

It is prayer that quickens our awareness, that inspires us to use Truth in our thinking, that releases the force of love in us and through us.

When we are aware of the powers within us, when we gauge our attitudes and reactions by the Christ standard of love and understanding, of wisdom and forgiveness, we learn and grow every day of our lives. We are not only shaped and molded as before by experiences, but now as possessors of spiritual power we shape and mold our world. We are not at the mercy of conditions. We see the power of God at work, no matter what the appearances; and we call the transforming power into activity through our faith and through our words of Truth.

If we find ourselves in the midst of some situation that seems difficult or hard to bear, if we are having trouble getting along with some person, if for any reason we are troubled or unhappy, let us look at these situations, these persons, these conditions, and say: “You are my teachers. I have something to learn from you.” To face life in this way is to find ourselves, to discover that the power of God is with us. We will no longer wish that we were in some place other than where we are now. We will see that we do indeed stand on holy ground.

Martha Smock (1913–1984) served as editor of Unity's Daily Word magazine for 35 years. This article is an excerpt from her book, Meet It With Faith.