By Steve Wickham
There is one thing that experience teaches us that mere observation cannot. Experience teaches us through changing us, and most people who are changed arrive at a decision point: will this change me for the better or will I become bitter because of what has happened to me.
At such a fork in the road do we arrive, serially throughout life. Some experiences, however, we could not only have done without, they come to shape and then define us.
Actually, all experiences shape and define. We go one way or the other; toward health or disease.
It’s normal and natural to resent certain experiences; those that take us far outside the control we never would surrender. Enter the grief experience. It’s why our first cataclysmic grief experience teaches us so much.
The end of my first marriage was such a time. The end of my entire world came, and a lot of that initial time I was sure that being dead would have been a better option. But God always has a purpose in grief, not that I could see it at the time, other than to have faith in believing there was a purpose.
And we have to believe to get better. If we cannot believe we’re doomed into cynicism or resentment or denial, or some such tributary of hopeless self-condemnation. But we can believe. Believing there’s some purpose in the grief, even if we have no clue what that is (and we won’t know), is the way to arrive at an eventual hope, through faith, via continual expressions of hope.
IT’S NOT TOO LATE – IT’S NEVER TOO LATE
Turning our lives around in the way of viewing that life-shattering grief experience differently is always as quick as starting at our choice.
It’s never too late to change our attitudes to things. Like the rudder on a massive ship changes its direction, our attitude changes the direction of our lives. And from a simple recommitment comes the power to create the change we desire. From a recommitment we enter the process, prepared to change in adapting to the change we resented.
We have much to gain and nothing to lose by challenging our resentment of every unpalatable experience.
WHERE THE SERENITY PRAYER FITS IN
The short version of The Serenity Prayer is commonly used in recovery, so in the present context it works well:
1. grant me the grace to accept the things I cannot change,
2. the courage to change the things I can,
3. and the wisdom to know the difference.
I numbered the lines for ease of working through them.
1. The experience we resent happened. We didn’t want it to happen. But it did. It cannot be changed. It’s our history. All we can reasonably do is accept it, and we do get there if that’s our goal. So, don’t give up.
2. We can change if we have the courage to change. And choosing to let something go that we hold a resentment about is something in the domain of the changeable.
3. Wisdom empowers us to do the thing that leads us away from death by going the way of life. There’s wisdom in accepting experience so it’s not resented and having the courage to replace resentment with hope.