Some of the most profound lessons a person can learn don’t come from living this pristine and deeply spiritual life 24/7. No. Some of the greatest lessons we learn come from how well we fail in life. The trick is recognizing the opportunity to grow through what we go through in the moment rather than repeating the same mistakes. Life has a funny way of presenting us with scenarios to test our merit to evolve as people, repeatedly.
For instance, I thought by giving my life over to God that everything in my life would become this wonderful and joyous occasion. Certainly now that I’m out of prison and have renounced my criminal behavior society will gladly accept me as I am. Everything will be wonderful. Just walk the path of the saints and everything I touch will turn to gold. Now anyone on the outside can obviously see the flaws in this sort of delusional thinking but I was choosing oblivion. It’s what 12 steppers call the pink cloud- a sense of euphoria that’s then followed by a crash once reality sets in.
See, it’s easy to be upbeat and swang on cruise control when everything is going smoothly, but what about on those rocky roads? What do you do when you have obligations to the state, insane work hours, and very little sleep? You fail. You get short with people. You feel yourself lashing out and wanting to react in those old patterns of thinking which have always comforted you. In short, you human it up a bit.
Of course we fail. Of course we lose our minds when hardships surround us. Of course we get short tempered with unpleasant people when we have those sort of problems in our lives. What tends to happen is we forget to ask ourselves if we’re the only ones going through hardships. We forget to ask ourselves what that “unpleasant” person is experiencing that’s lead them to act the way they’re acting. Maybe their temperament is normal to them and they meant no offense. Then it would be us who has the problem. I mean, who are we to judge right?
Let’s move beyond the obvious in this and look a bit deeper. There is a sort of ebb and flow to the universe that even the most spiritually balanced people among us aren’t free from. In fact, I’m always amazed to learn of the hardships the kindest and sweetest of people have suffered through. It’s the cancer patient knocking at deaths door who treats others with compassion and grace. It’s the woman whose had her jaw broken by an abusive husband who comforts the crying stranger on the streets. It’s the broken who stop to mend the pieces of others. Why?
Beyond our judgement of how we feel people should react to life lies the common threads of humanity. We suffer. We laugh. We cry. We constantly seek to do better in our lives today than we did yesterday. Even in those truly terrifying moments we either give birth to the desire to help others avoid such tremendous pain or we desire to cause others to suffer. It’s the choices that we make that ultimately define us. We choose to react out of anger or frustration. We choose to let our personal problems cloud the way we handle others. We choose.
I’ve found that in those moments where I’m the most distressed or the most vulnerable I’ve undoubtedly been focused on myself and my problems. Now go back to our examples of people who stop to help others. Do you think they’re focused on themselves in those moments? Absolutely not. This is the paradox. By helping others through their emotional distress they are helping them avoid the turmoil they’ve endured. They’re living in service.
So the next time your life gets to be too much try getting out of your own head a bit. Find a way to be useful to the people around you or go and help out a complete stranger. Make yourself useful. This is how we grow through what we go through. This is how we allow those dark moments to be transformed into compassion for others. This is how we help each other to grow. Think about that the next time life stresses you to the max and you want to react. What would you want someone to tell you in that moment? Say that to the unpleasant person before you instead of unleashing all the anger you have inside. The result may surprise you.