Look For The Gifts And Lessons
“But then again, maybe bad things happen because it’s the only way we can keep remembering what good is supposed to look like.” — Jodi Picoult
Think of a current negative situation you are wrestling with? It might be related to a relationship, finances, health or something close and personal to you. I’m not discounting the strength of your emotions but inviting you to resist labelling the situation as negative for now. Having endured countless challenges over the years, what seemed as a negative experience resulted in the greatest contribution to my personal growth. Later, as the pieces of the puzzle came together, I could see how things were working perfectly for my greater good.
I don’t know why bad things happen, sometimes to good people. For example, the loving husband or wife tragically hit by a drunk driver is paralysed for life. The elderly couple who loses their life savings to an unscrupulous investor. The only child who succumbs to cancer. I am as curious as you are why these things happen, but I’ve discovered it is pointless trying to make sense of it. Instead, we ought to look at how these experiences can enhance our growth. I believe there is a God, not a religious God depicted by mainstream religion but a universal and creative energy field functioning as God. This infinite field is contained within everything in the universe. You may wish to call it source, universe or nothing at all, that’s fine, but it helps to believe in a greater force co-creating our life in the background.
I mention this because with the death of my father and my illness two decades ago; I believe this energy field is present in every experience, whether good or bad. When we label an experience as negative, we are taking a snapshot of what is taking place then. We don’t have a clue what will follow or whether things will improve. For example, if you receive a speeding ticket, it makes sense to label the experience as negative. But what if there’s a greater reason for receiving the speeding ticket that becomes clearer later on? The British writer Alan Watts wrote: “The whole process of nature is an integrated process of immense complexity, and it’s really impossible to tell whether anything that happens in it is good or bad.”
This idea is further illustrated in the story of the Chinese farmer: Once upon a time, there was a Chinese farmer whose horse ran away. That evening, his neighbours came over to commiserate. They said: “We are sorry to hear your horse has run away. This is most unfortunate.” The farmer said: “Maybe.” The next day, the horse came back bringing seven wild horses with it and in the evening, the neighbours returned and said: “Oh, isn’t that lucky. What a great turn of events. You now have eight horses!” The farmer again exclaimed: “Maybe.” The following day, his son tried to break one of the horses and while riding it, was thrown off and broke his leg. The neighbours then said: “Oh dear, that’s too bad” and the farmer again responded: “Maybe.” The next day, the conscription officers came to conscript people into the army and rejected his son because he had a broken leg. Again, the neighbours came over and said: “Isn’t that great!” Again, he said: “Maybe.”
Life Is A Self-Organising System
“I have always believed, and I still believe, that whatever good or bad fortune may come our way we can always give it meaning and transform it into something of value.” — Hermann Hesse
The fundamental aspect, as Alan Watts refers to, is that nature is an integrated process of immense complexity and we cannot tell whether anything is good or bad until the picture is complete. Even events that occur in this lifetime, which we consider negative, could be useful to the next generation. It is why we mustn’t label experiences as negative, but look for the lessons and growth within those experiences. Are you comfortable with this idea so far? I hope you’re open to the idea that life is conspiring for you, even if it doesn’t look that way sometimes. I’m neither asking you to change your mind nor forcing you to adopt a belief that you’re not comfortable with. I’m merely inviting you to dip your toe in the possibility that life, the universe, source, God or whatever you call it, is supporting you beyond the realm of possibility.
Life can be complex and also simple, and it’s difficult to know how to live according to this understanding. But we must resist naming and labelling situations as negative because we set ourselves up for disappointment. We create the perception of life being against us, where in fact, life is flowing through us. It requires stepping back from the drama and searching for the lessons and important growth contained within our experiences. So, I ask you: can you give yourself the gift of looking at your current misfortune, through the lens of growth? Are you willing to stop labelling situations as negative and ask: “What does the greater part of me need to learn from this experience?” Ask yourself: “Why am I being presented with this experience and whom do I need to become to overcome it?”
Ultimately, we can choose to see our experiences as good or bad, but that is a limiting view. Because life is a self-organising system, we ought to relax into the knowingness that things will often resolve themselves with little interference from us. If we add a limiting belief to what is taking place, we add more muck to a dirty lens. But if we take the view that although things appear unpleasant now, we are willing to look for the lessons and change our perception of what is taking place. Ask life to show you why this experience is happening and who you will become because of it. Only then will you transcend every negative situation and life will make more sense.