Anyone living into adulthood (and sooner for some) will inevitably encounter hardships and pain. It might be physical (an illness, broken bones), emotional (depression, self-doubt), relational (a hurting relationship, annoying people), or spiritual (Is there really a loving God? How to love myself or other difficult people?)
Lately I’ve been thinking about such negative life experiences prompted by some health concerns, some difficult relationships, and the sorry state of planet earth in general. My first reactions often include worry, anger, or avoidance.

But sometimes a Spirit of quest and curiosity follow my negative reactions. Perhaps it is coincidence, a need to resolve the discomfort, or the entering of the Spirit through prayer. I’m not really sure, but I’ve started looking at these negative experiences as opportunities – as unwelcome but positive impulses to make needed changes in my life. I should listen to them. For example:

  • Health Hurdles – Hardly anyone ever welcomes a colonoscopy. My recent one raised no serious concerns but it triggered several additional tests and combined with 6 other medical appointments within 2 weeks, prompted me to reflect on how many people deal with serious physical pain. It complicated my life for awhile but the bigger learning was a feeling of compassion for those with acute or ongoing health concerns. It was humbling to move out of focusing on my minor ailments to unite with those in greater need.
  • Mistakes & Failures – I tried to do a good deed recently and it backfired. I decided to clean up litter around neighbor A’s home. I felt virtuous. However, another, closer, neighbor later told me that they were hoping the litterer would be evicted since this was just a small symptom of bigger problems with neighbor A. Who was right? Who cares? The lesson I learned was to reduce judgement, and self-righteousness. Seeing both sides of the problem expanded my vision. What can I learn from mistakes I’ve made? Often more than if I luckily avoided the mistake in the first place.
  • Criticizing Others – At a recent conference I attended a talk that was way too long and not well delivered. I was annoyed and felt I had wasted my time. But further reflection prompted me to wonder what might be going on in this particular presenter’s life? Do I sometimes bore people? Perhaps this negative experience can help me be more compassionate with my fellow humans and myself. Not every bad or painful experience is to be avoided – it might prompt a new, more creative solution to a problem.
  • The recent heat-wave – Most people on planet Earth have been suffering under record breaking heat this summer. It’s oppressive. It slows me down. I worry about the future, BUT maybe being disturbed is an important wake-up call to making substantive change in governmental and corporate environmental policies. Hopefully this unwelcome crisis will prompt needed actions which in the long run will be life-saving.

What do You think?