We’re All Climbing the Ladder of Life: Recognizing Where We Are On It, What Keeps Us From Ascending, Comparing Our Assent with Others, and Providing a Helping Hand Along the Way

staying positive

We’re all on a ladder in life. We may be on different rungs but we’re somewhere on it. Sometimes we find ourselves thinking about other people’s shortcomings and how much they bother us. We all know we have shortcomings.  We see it in our family, coworkers, friends, and drivers on the road.

It causes frustration, hurt feelings, and can just bring an overall negative vibe to our day. 

“One person struggles with a certain passion that another easily masters; yet the latter struggles far more with a different passion that the former easily overcomes. In other words, what is step ten for one person could be step twenty for another, and any given step may take many years to master.”

Papavassiliou, Archimandrite Vassilios. Thirty Steps to Heaven: The Ladder of Divine Ascent for All Walks of Life (Kindle Locations 100-104). Ancient Faith Publishing. Kindle Edition.

A family member may need to work on dependability and a friend on timeliness.  Thinking things like ‘they have their own priorities and will just change their mind later,’ ‘they’re always late,’ and ‘if they cared then…’ creates distance between us.  By focusing on these shortcomings, I find myself in a negative state of mind. 

This passage from Thirty Steps to Heaven really spoke to me in regards to this.  What may come easily to me, can be a significant stumbling block to someone else and vice versa.  I picture someone struggling to get to the next rung, but keeps falling down and gives up.

Opening my mind to this way of thinking allows me to approach the shortcomings of others with compassion and understanding.  This can really help me stop the cycle of negative thinking I’ve found myself in and help me get back on the path of positivity again.

So when your mind goes to a negative place when that person cuts you off, your toddler is having a meltdown and refuses to take a bath and proceeds to tackle his brother and run around crazy, or that loved one says something hurtful, you can think about how they struggle on this ladder in life.

Focus on Your Own Ladder Rung

You may be saying, ‘okay but what if they’re unaware or don’t want to change?’  I think that is answered in the second part of the passage that states it can take years to overcome shortcomings.  Sometimes people aren’t ready or in a place in their lives to confront their flaws; they deny them, dismiss them, excuse them, or even embrace them.  As you’ve probably heard many times, we can’t change others just ourselves and our responses to other people’s behavior.  So where does that leave us in the midst of feeling frustrated or hurt? 

I set emotional boundaries.  I remind myself that sometimes it’s not about me, it’s about them and the work they need to do in their own life when they’re ready. I work on how I respond to the behavior: calm, loving, respectful, and with limits if necessary. Okay you’re / they’re going to continue to do x, so I’m going to need to do y. Sometimes I have to plan ahead. I know they’re going to do x so I need to do a, b, and c to either prevent, support, or prepare myself. This can work with adults and children. I know my kid isn’t going to want to take a bath so I prepare myself for a fight and come ready with toys, mommy time to play, patience. With adults it might look like this: I know John gets anxious and irritated about being late so I’m going to set my alarm to make sure I’m ready early to help ease his anxiety. If you know a conversation is going to be tense, plan for a time that is calming, uninterrupted, and do a lot of listening. If it gets to heated you can say you’ll have it at another time when things are calmer.

I can only focus on my own shortcomings and hope they find their own way.  It could also mean reaching out in love to help if they want it.

Lend a Helping Hand

Sometimes people need help and support to overcome their flaws.  We can offer this if it’s appropriate.  I picture someone struggling on a rung, desperate to move on, but can’t reach.  They keep falling down, and cover their face in shame.  They try again and fall down and then just give up. 

We can be that helping hand that helps them reach the next rung, to overcome their obstacles in life.

This could be listening, providing strategies, offering your presence, participating together to help reach a goal if appropriate, helping them process the root of the issue etc.

Moving Forward in Positivity

I don’t know when negativity crept into my life, but I’m finding it hiding, lurking in all corners of my life.  I’m shining a light on it and kicking it out the door of my mind! 

The next time I have negative thoughts towards another, I’ll think of this quote and remember it may be easy for me, but not for them.  Maybe I’ll say a little prayer for them as well and ask for God’s forgiveness for my lack of humility as well to help me on my own journey. 

“the last step of the Ladder, which is love, is an eternal step that we will never reach the end of, neither in this life nor in the world to come: Love has no boundary, and both in the present and in the future age we will never cease to progress in it, as we add light to light.”

Papavassiliou, Archimandrite Vassilios. Thirty Steps to Heaven: The Ladder of Divine Ascent for All Walks of Life (Kindle Locations 108-111). Ancient Faith Publishing. Kindle Edition.

If God has called you to live in the world, then you are the light of the world. Whatever the outward circumstances of your life, however chaotic things may be at times, you can have a little monastery in your heart where you may retreat to find solitude and strength amidst the troubles and temptations of life. Remember, “The kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17: 21).

Papavassiliou, Archimandrite Vassilios. Thirty Steps to Heaven: The Ladder of Divine Ascent for All Walks of Life (Kindle Locations 190-193). Ancient Faith Publishing. Kindle Edition.

So approach yourself and others in their climbing the ladder of life with love, understanding, and peace, knowing God is with you.

May you find a greater perspective on the ladder of life helpful in your relationships with others and your own journey in life.

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