Every failure, every crisis, every difficult time I say “what is this here to teach me?” As soon as you get the lesson you get to move on. If you really get the lesson you pass and you don’t have to repeat the class. If you don’t get the lesson it shows up wearing another pair of pants…
From Oprah Winfrey’s 2008 Stanford Commencement Address which a friend posted on Facebook recently (along with some other quotes from it).
This statement really resonated with me. I don’t ask myself this question every time I find myself in difficulties, but it seems like a really positive thing to do.
I think it is the nature of life that we will come upon the same difficulties time and time again until we learn how to deal with them or avoid them. That part is statistically quite true. The idea that a difficulty “is here to teach me” something is a statement about meaning, about purpose; it implies there being someone (God, fate, the universe…) engineering circumstances for the purpose of teaching me something, even if that is not made explicit in the statement. And even though I do not believe that, it resonated with me because of course it is perfectly natural to see meaning and purpose in events. It is the way we are wired.
And this is one of those instances where I feel good about that natural tendency, even though I see it as an illusion. I think it is extremely helpful to be able to see difficulties as bearers of life lessons, and since there is always so much to be learned, it’s almost inevitable that a lesson will emerge from any hard situation, especially if you are looking for it. The idea of the lesson coming in a package tailored just for me is not something I can hold literally. It is a metaphor. It is poetry, and it makes life taste better. For me, this is the essence of spirituality.
For some humanists there is fear and suspicion of the subjective lest it thwarts the onward march of objective knowledge. For some religious believers there is fear of objective knowledge lest it destroys meaning. I sometimes feel like I have found a sneaky path through the best of both worlds. 🙂