A few months ago in San Antonio, Texas, I spoke about the leadership principles of “Sharing Fire” to a large group of executives from the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. One of the points I made was to look back on a regret or difficult incident from at least five years ago and ask, “If I could change that situation, what would I not have in my life now that is good?” I saw a lot of “ah ha!” moments going off in people’s eyes.
But it wasn’t until a few months later when I was with the group again that one of the women told me that my session changed her life. She had remained very angry over her divorce a year earlier, and regretted ever marrying her husband. Her anger consumed a lot of her time and energy, and it was wearing her out. During my session, she realized that without her marriage, many wonderful things would not have happened in her life, especially the birth of her two children. After she listed all the good things she would not have if she could change that bad situation, she no longer had anger toward him. In fact, she wrote and thanked him for everything he gave to her during their marriage. She said she was released from the shackles off anger, and he was shocked. That is the power of perspective and forgiveness.
Now I’ll admit it: I hate it when bad things happen in my life. When things are going well, I often get lulled into thinking that I have finally overcome all the obstacles in life and finally, this is how my life will and should be. Actually, I am setting myself up for unnecessary disappointment and a feeling of failure when things do go wrong, and they always do. In those times, I refer back to the opening lines in book The Road Less Traveled by the late Dr. M. Scott Peck: “Life is difficult.” Once we accept that fact, instead of wishing life were easy, dealing with the bad things that happen is easier.
I want to take a step it a step further and suggest that we not only accept that fact, but embrace it. Why? Because overcoming difficulties and bad things that happen often results in the good and sometimes great things in our life. Bad things also help us grow by:
- Giving us wisdom we can only learn from the experience of life.
- Making us more valuable to others who need help in dark times.
- Lending us “been there, done that” credibility in our professional and personal lives.
- Leading us down rewarding roads we never would have taken before.
- Blessing us with the opportunity to turn the experience into a crusade to help other people avoid what we have experienced or better cope with their own tragedies, thereby making the world a better place.
When George Burns played God in the film Oh God, a little girl asked him why, if he was God and created everything, he let bad things happen to people. He replied, “Well Kid, it’s built into the system. I’ve never figured out how to make an up without a down, or a good without a bad.” His point was that there are always two sides to everything that happens on earth. Yes, there is and should be a time to mourn, be angry and get depressed when things go wrong. But out of that darkness, the light of a bright dawn arises that we can embrace if we always remember that out of tragedy comes triumph, out of failure even greater success can emerge. Once we open our minds to the good that has come out of past dark times that we have survived, it will help us embrace the bad and use that experience to grow stronger and help others. Keep sharing fire and make your life more fulfilling and the world a better place!