One of the irritating things my mom used to say was “What lesson can we learn from this?” Almost always this question came off the heels of a bump in the road like a bad grade, broken heart, lost job, illness, death in the family, etc.
I say “irritating” because in the middle of what I defined as suffering, my inner, sniveling child didn’t want to hear anything about “life lessons.” I wanted immediate relief from my pain and had no time for wisdom.
In truth, my mom was right, as most moms are. In the middle of our pain, one of the better ways to move on (in due time) is to harvest every lesson we can from it. In other words, learn something. Why? Because we never know when we’re going to get walloped again, and we need to prepare when things get worse.
By the way, if you think life’s problems can’t get worse, ask yourself if you’ve ever wanted the problems you had in elementary school as compared to what you have now.
Pain can be external — something we want doesn’t happen or something we do NOT want happens. Or we can experience internal pain, which is more often than not our personal reaction to perceived or real external pain.
Some real-life examples:
* A friend of mine recently learned that the sweet baby girl he and his wife were expecting to adopt this month would instead be raised by her biological mother
* A 27-year-old friend of a friend was robbed and beaten in the streets of Cozumel, and soon died from his wounds
* The daughter of a high school classmate died from an ATV crash
* A high school classmate had to bury a son and daughter in their 20s
* Some good friends of ours got a divorce
* [List yours here]
“What about the Holocaust?” you say. “What possible lesson could we learn from the worst of the worst?”
The Holocaust is the most common example of awful things this world has endured, and yet it produced many political, socio-economic, military, and psychological lessons. One of the most important came from Viktor Frankl, a German neurologist and psychiatrist held captive in Auschwitz and camps connected to Dachau (and author of “Man’s Search For Meaning): Of humanity, he said, “There are only two races, the decent and the indecent.” This naturally counters the false narrative that people are basically good. We’re not.
Since each of us is unique, so too are the lessons we decide to learn from pain. But in my view the most important is this: We’re all going through or living with some kind and degree of physical, mental, or emotional pain; some get whacked with all three at the same time. Very few people walk between the raindrops. If we remember this, we will find ourselves not just more tolerant of others when we think they treat us badly, but we might make more of an effort to help them in their suffering.
Thanks, Mom. I hope I am learning what you wanted to teach me.