Everything is NOT a Gift

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…

Or…

“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…

Moving on…

“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/

12 thoughts on “Everything is NOT a Gift

  1. This is so awesome to know, when I was in that horrible dark hole so many of us have been in, it was OK and not a weakness from my side. I pray never to get there ever. So many different issues occured in my life, one loosing my most beloved bro Leon to suicide 9 yrs ago. My mourning periof of 2 yrs was terrible. Thanx to my wonderful husband putting up with me, whereas the Clinical Psychologist fell asleep in all 3 my Sessions at R750 per hour even while I was crying, eventually turned me into the free spirit I am today. Thanx for this awesome inspiration.

    1. Hey René,

      Thank you for taking the time to share your most personal thoughts.

      I would say it’s quite the opposite of weakness René, it shows immense strength to express your inner most pain.

      Never hiding your pain, and NOT ‘putting on a brave face’ will surely benefit you.

  2. In the family I grew up in where early childhood traumas first began I came to see how truth isn’t sacred yet without truth we can’t truly heal or we are staying a part of the perpetuating cycle of victimhood . When we take off the bandaids covering our wounds which requires that we allow ourselves to be vulnerable …the the wounds can start to be examined and the infection of misperceptions cleaned and redressed. There are those that don’t want to hear the truth because it’s ugly to them …but the courage required to be so raw in our vulnerability is actually starkly beautiful and offers others the permission to likewise be the same and share theirs if they choose to and/ or are ready to.
    Even if the lesson is simply to have a voice! To know that ones voice is an instrument of either destruction or creation and as such has it’s part to play too in this orchestra of life that holds the sounds of many.

    1. Hey Macushla, thank you for such an eloquent comment.

      Indeed it does take courage to lay ourselves bare in revealing our truths. Others truths often move me and I welcome them regardless of nature.

      When you listen to truth, it’s not the ears you hear it with, it’s the soul. When that truth comes from a place of love, it’s your entire being that resonates with its authenticity.

  3. This article is opportune for me. My son took his life 2 years ago and I found him. He used a rifle. Silver lining? none. HOWEVER, I choose to grieve, work through my healing and continue living. My son intended to kill himself but I know he did not intend to kill me. I choose life.

    You are right, we each must choose whether something is positive or not but I wonder if that is the question. My son dying was a negative, no if ands or buts about it. But I choose not to sit in victimhood for the rest of my life.

    No matter what our life story, it is a decision we must all make at one point or another. For me it was my son, for others it might be a divorce, a rape or murder or even a job loss or financial disaster. Some will experience great trauma and decide to find whatever positive they can, others will suffer what appears to be less trauma (??!!?) and never get past it.

    I’m not sure what I am trying to say but thank you for the article and for provoking more thought on this matter.

    If you are interested, you can read my blog posts on this topic at carlahowatt.com

    1. Hey Carla, thanks so much for your candid comment.
      I’m really sorry for your loss, I can only imagine the pain you’ve endured.

      I agree, we all have our own stories of trauma and we all have our own decisions to make in how we process the aftermath.

      I guess when we have the choice of choosing life over victimhood, it’s the choice we would most like to make. But only when that choice is not taken away.

      Victimhood is often seen as a book which must be closed as soon as humanly possible. Often this book is closed far sooner than it should be, resulting in repressed sediment.

      Only the victim can decide whether they are truly healed or have been shunted into appearing healed by shame.

      When experiencing loss, grief, abuse or trauma the messages we are showered with are tinged with repression. Life goes on… Don’t look back… You can’t change the past…

      These are all self-defeating if you live your life by these mantras having not fully healed.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment Carla, and I will surely check out your website.
      Take care…

  4. Reality is going to hit each and every person differently – Trauma changes us, pain changes us…. and that silver lining? It can certainly be blackened by the elements (suppressing our emotions). But what if the human condition is craving betterment? By “betterment” I don’t mean fluffy puppies and unicorns I mean a raw commitment to working through the hideous atrocities some of us have gone through, and perhaps instead of celebrating the path of demoralization, standing up to the things that plague our soul… Ae may find some solace in that someday, maybe someday the shit will be minimized, slightly desensitised in our memory. Never forgotten, just an internal self-forgiveness. Easing up on our anger, resentment and our heart for hanging on to stuff that might just need to go.
    I speak with sincerity, it feels a LOT better than clinging to the past in righteousness.

    1. Hey Debbie, thank you for commenting. I feel your sincerity whilst reading your words.

      I don’t think anyone who suffers, would not wish to overcome their ordeal. People deal with experiences as best they can, sometimes that experience is just too much to bear.

      It isn’t a weakness to not fully heal from trauma. It’s not a weakness to not fully heal from a trauma that someone else has managed to heal from. And that’s just for the survivors.

      Like you say “Reality is going to hit each and every person differently”, and I agree. And that benevolent viewpoint should always supersede any generalisations of the human condition.

  5. Thank you, Milo for this astute and courageous article. It is heartening to know there are people, like you, that are willing to challenge our preconceptions so they don’t become misperceptions. We are all in this thing called life together.

    1. Hey Cheri,
      Thank you for taking the time to read the article and comment, its very much appreciated. I hope the article sheds a little light on the darker moments from life. Empathy is key I think, and yes we’re all swimming in the same beautifully blue shark infested water called life.

  6. Wow. Humbling. You are absolutely right. There isn’t always a silver lining. Certainly not for the horrors some people face. But if not a gift, perhaps there is a lesson in everything? That humans are capable of unspeakable cruelty. I say, let’s not hide our heads in the sand about this truth, no matter how much “goodness” we see in each other.

    1. Hi Tina, thanks so much for taking the time to comment, it’s great to see you over here!
      It was a humbling post to write. Sometimes the realities of people’s experiences cannot be rationalised, understood or explained. And to try to, can trivialise and further distress.
      I agree with you, it’s good to see the goodness and celebrate that often, but it’s essential we work with, and deal in truth at all times, even when it’s ugly.

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