I’m feeling philosophical this morning, so I’m resurrecting the Monday Musing category.
I’ve been thinking lately about the effect that troubles and trials have upon us as human beings. There’s no doubt that when you go through a very difficult time in your life, and especially so if that is for an extended period, it changes who you are. But it can do this in one of two ways: either it softens you, or it makes you harder. It either rubs off the sharp corners of your personality, makes you a more compassionate person, makes you warmer, more approachable, more understanding of others problems and weaknesses, or it makes you tough and bitter, spiky around the edges, impatient of others troubles.
In my experience, in the moulding process, you go through patches of both, softening and hardening, bitterness and compassion, hope and despair. I think that is somewhat out of your power to control, it’s just what happens when we are trying to cope with a difficult situation. But what I do think is in our control is the eventual outcome. If you are determined to allow difficulties to make you a better person – and by better, I don’t mean superior, more virtuous, but softer, warmer, kinder – then they will. Eventually.
You learn to look outwards instead of inwards. What are the people around you going through? Because no matter how badly you feel, how much you think you are suffering, you can be sure that others around you are experiencing just as dreadful things, just as much heartbreak, because that’s how life is. You try to figure out how your own experience and pain can be turned to good account, how you can use it to help someone else.
And when you do look inwards, you try to do so constructively. What is life trying to teach me here? What corners of my personality need chipping off, what flaws do I have that are making this experience more painful than it has to be?
I suppose what it all comes down to is that you stop resisting the trial. Like when you are in physical pain, tensing up and fighting it only makes it hurt more, with emotional pain, resisting and panicking and wishing it were otherwise, only exacerbates it. Softening yourself and accepting the situation leaves you open to benefitting by it. It’s a hard lesson to learn, but one of the most valuable that life can offer us.
And eventually you will find that you can only be glad that a situation has happened to you, because when you look back to times before it, you can see how much you needed to change, how much good that experience has done you, and you become grateful for it, almost sorry to let it slip away, but determined not to forget it, or go back to the way you were before. And that’s when you know you have truly succeeded in life.