So here are my two questions:
1.What are the most valuable/important lessons you think everyone should learn?
2.What are the most valuable/important lessons you've learned?
As a knee-jerk reaction, I admit I want to think that these are the same question phrased a little differently. But then, of course, I think further and realize this is not the case. I think I'll answer the second one first, since it's easier to talk of myself before making broader generalizations.
My personal greatest lessons, certainly over the last few years if not through my entire life, have dealt with my ability to help those I care about. Probably the single most important of those would be that I cannot do everything for everyone. Trust me, I've tried. It doesn't work. I can get close, sometimes, at the expense of everything I feel necessary in outside life, but even then some people get let down. You have to pick your battles, lest "the bear" get you every single day, as the saying sort of goes.
The next-most important lesson that I've picked up recently may seem odd, or too obvious to even mention. But it took me until just this past year, and many painful ordeals, to finally figure it out. The lesson is one that I feel applies to both questions, and to all people, not just me. That lesson is this: maintain perspective at all times, and at all costs. Never, but never, allow yourself to forget exactly how much you have to do with what goes on around you -- and how much or how little you affect the outcome of any given situation you are invested in. Forgetting to keep this perspective not only hurt many people, myself certainly included, but also nearly cost my life and a close friend's sanity. For the sake of the privacy of those involved and for the sake of space, I will not recount the story (even if asked; please trust me that for now it is best that this remain hidden), but suffice to say it was a very sharp wake-up call for me and for all that I was doing and feeling at the time.
Since that lesson seems to apply so well to everyone, I suppose I may just as well move into the first question. What do I think everyone should learn? Well, there are a lot of things we all need to learn in life. I think some of us are just born better-prepared for certain lessons than are the rest of us, but then each person has their own unique strengths. It's up to all of us to capitalize on that and use it to get a leg up over our weaknesses. Anyway. The single most important lesson, or rather the most important challenge, is in my opinion to learn to defeat pride.
That's right, pride. As in Seven-Deadly-Sins pride. Wrath, envy, lust, sloth, excess, and greed are all important to avoid, but pride is in my experience the root of all of them, and far more problems besides. One form of pride is the source of lust and enemy to love, believing that others are just objects to be used for gratification rather than companionship. Another type believes that others are not as much entitled to their property or status and fosters greed and envy and excess alike. One type believes that it is above working and engenders sloth. Wrath is derived from the belief that one's feelings are more important than others' and that offense must be retributed against even if it was with good reason.
Pride is essentially at the root of all selfish or sinful or misanthropic behavior, and must -- must -- be stopped if we as human beings with souls and hearts are to function in harmony with one another. In a comment on a previous entry here, IamtheEnder writes:
It is painful to see harm done. Why would anyone want that? It doesn't make sense to me to do anything but good.
I agree that it is very painful to see harm or pain inflicted on anyone else... but it is often actually a relief from pain that drives such an action. We see something that hurts us, and we feel the need -- a prideful need (lest this seem too tangential) -- to fight back against its source. Someone inflicts pain on us, and the natural and instinctive response is to drive pain into them tenfold, to get revenge or to serve justice on behalf of another for whom we care. It's wrong, morally, but it's natural. What we should do, in all cases, is to accept the action that caused us pain in the first place and try to make amends as best we can. But this is not easy. It requires forgiveness, and it requires strength. More so than I personally feel I have.
All I can say, in the end, is good luck to all who genuinely want to rid themselves of pride and to exchange it for perspective.