Everything is NOT a gift. There may be valued transformation that arises from many experiences, but that doesn’t mean that EVERY experience is a gift. If we lean too far in that direction, we will deny trauma and victimhood all together, something we have been mistakenly doing for centuries.
No, everything is not a gift. Some experiences are horrors, and it is all we can do to heal from them. To suggest that someone MUST find the gift in them, is to add insult to injury. It is also to create a culture that welcomes all tragedies, because, after all- “everything is a gift.”
Let’s keep it grounded- sometimes, it’s a gift. Sometimes it’s a horror. And the only one who can decide that is the person who had the experience.
Is there always a silver lining in every negative experience?
Are there lessons which can be learnt, no matter how damaging, tragic or traumatising a life event may be?
When bad shit happens to us it’s easy to soothe ourselves with the notion that, maybe, somehow, this experience is part of a bigger picture we’re unable to quite fathom right now. A life lesson we need or had to experience in order to progress and move forward.
Let’s go through a few hypotheticals…
“Thank goodness I found out what a lying cheating bastard I had for a husband. I was meant to catch him cheating when I did, because I met Zac two weeks later, my twin flame.”
Yeah, I can understand the logic in that one…
“If I hadn’t been hit by that car that day and had to spend three weeks in hospital I think I’d have ended up burnt out from work. I was at the end of my rope, and that collision did me a favour. It gave me the respite I needed to re-evaluate my life.”
Hmmm…yeah okay, I can see where they’re coming from with this one…
Let’s try another…
“I’m strong now, but I was severely bullied at school. That experience instilled in me a determination to treat people with respect and always stand up for myself. I know what it’s like to feel marginalised and never want anyone else to feel that way.”
Yep turning a negative experience into a positive one definitely holds up in this case…
“I’m the best parent I can possibly be. Suffering years of verbal and physical abuse growing up, I wanted to make sure my children never had to experience the same trauma as me. I sometimes overcompensate and spoil them but they’re great kids.”
I can see the silver lining in this negative experience.
Let’s keep moving…
“My life changed when I was 19 years old, I was attacked, kidnapped and held hostage for three days. During which time, I was repeatedly gang raped, beaten and humiliated. I suffered a permanent physical injury which has left me with a disability, and untold mental and psychological scars. I feel unable to continue with my life and want to end it all.”
I’m having difficulty seeing any silver lining or life lesson in this scenario…
Let’s try another…
“I was rounded up with others like me, by an occupying army in my country. I was imprisoned in a camp for four years. I was starved, beaten and made to work in the harshest conditions imaginable. I watched on countless times as people I knew, and people I didn’t, were executed in front of me. Our camp was liberated two days after I was shot in the head, and killed.”
I fail to see any silver lining or life lesson from this experience.
Even if you don’t buy into the ‘things happen for a reason’ philosophy and simply believe that it’s always essential that you glean something positive from every negative experience, there are some experiences that are so horrific even surviving them, let alone finding a positive from them, is a feat in itself.
Often there are experiences which are not survived, how are these experiences explained if you believe that every experience is a gift, regardless of its nature? How, as a community of positive thinkers, a community of glass half full optimists do we justify that a silver lining must be found in every negative experience?
Some experiences are so horrific it can take a lifetime to heal from them. Sometimes full healing never occurs. And for people who have experienced these painful scenarios, it must be further distressing to hear or be told to find the positive in the negative. It’s actually insulting to assume that everyone must try and find a lesson, a silver lining or gift from these experiences.
Like a Phoenix
Yes, it is possible to find people who have gleaned such positive outlooks from clearly distressing and traumatising experiences. These are the stories we mostly hear about, how out of such shocking and horrifying conditions a person rose, Phoenix like, from the ashes of adversity to a place of serenity and clarity about their experience.
We hear these stories because they are palatable and have a positive message, and that’s fine. The survivors should be celebrated, they should be looked to as examples.
But there are many more who are struggling to cope with what life threw at them. Many more who gave up the ghost and took their own lives, unable to process the whys. Many more who never survived the actual ordeal.
These people should also be celebrated. Their stories might not be as palatable, and not fit in with the positive ‘vibe’ we are all trying to convey. They certainly don’t deserve the insult of being told that they must find the positive from their negative.
Only the person involved in their negative experience can decide whether it’s a gift or not. It’s an autonomous decision, it’s not open for discussion. We need to think long and hard before we make sweeping generalisations.
We need to spare a thought for the people who didn’t make it through their ordeal.
This article was inspired by a Facebook post from Jeff Brown. Jeff’s website can be found at https://soulshaping.com/