Growth from adversity

I love quotes. I mean, I really love quotes. I’ve been collecting them in some fashion for as long as I can remember – either jotted down in notebooks or compiled in Word documents (yes this was before Pinterest)… they continue not only to be a source of inspiration, but oftentimes the beginning of a reflection or self-discovery. The beauty I find in quotes is that regardless of whether or not I agree with the statement, it gets me thinking! Here is today’s quote:

“The wound is the place where the Light enters you” - Rumi

There are many common catch-phrases that embody the usefulness and benefit of physical pain – we see statements and inspirational images with the words “no pain, no gain” plastered on countless Facebook pages and Pinterest boards.

But what about mental pain? Emotional pain? Broken hearts, shattered dreams, disappointment?
Have we reached the point where we see those types of pain and struggle as something useful or beneficial?

I recently watched a TED talk on gratefulness given by the Benedictine monk, David Steindl-Rast, where he discussed that while no one could be grateful for everything in life (in particular things like war, death, or disease), that every moment is an opportunity, and that that is something to be grateful for. It occurs to me that this is easier said than done. I’m sure that anyone who has been touched by loss, grief, despair, or illness could agree that when in the midst of devastation, the light seems far, far away. But this quote by Rumi has prompted me to reflect on these two questions:

When bad things happen, do I learn something from it?
I’m not sure that I always learn something from life challenges. Honestly, sometimes I’m too busy being angry or disappointed that they happened, or busy being stubborn and not wanting to admit that I could learn something from it. But I’m not always terrible! I have learned some extremely valuable, hard, and even silly lessons from hurtful and difficult moments.

Are difficult life events opportunities for growth?
I don’t think that tragedy or hardship automatically equals growth. But I do think that in those struggles lie opportunities for change and growth. We are not always aware of the opportunities when we’re in the middle of a messy or tough spot, we’re too busy trying to keep afloat. But I wonder if we were to look back our life and trace it as a path, if those tough spots wouldn’t stand out as being shifts or forks in the road. It seems that when we are faced with difficult life events we are often being faced with a choice, and our actions can steer our attitudes and even our lives in a certain direction.

We are constantly changing and developing as individuals. Every event shapes who we are and who we will be in the future. This both excites and terrifies me. I guess all any of us can do is try to keep our eyes and hearts open to the many lessons that lie in waiting all around us, and to not be scared of how those lessons may change us.

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