As a person who considers herself more spiritual than religious, I’m probably the last person who should be tackling this question.
So, I won’t.
Instead, I’m going to defer to the wise rabbi, Harold Kushner, author of Why Bad Things Happen to Good People. It’s a great book – you should read it. Really. But for the purposes of this blog I’ll cut to the chase. Kushner says this question of “Why do bad things happen?” is really the wrong question. The question should be: How do we respond when bad things happen?
I’d like to expand his thesis to just ask: How do we respond to life?
In a way, having an easy life is really not always an advantage. For example:
- If you grow up smart, you don’t have to learn how to study.
- If you grow up surrounded by loving people, you don’t have to learn how to be alone.
- If you grow up beautiful, you don’t have to learn to develop your inner beauty.
- If you grow up being taken care of, you don’t have to learn how to care for yourself or others.
- If you grow up sheltered, you don’t have to learn empathy for others who differ from you.
- If you grow up rich, you don’t have to learn to do without.
- If you grow up with harmony, you don’t have to learn to deal with conflict.
- If everything always goes your way, then you don’t have to learn how to struggle.
Having advantages doesn’t preclude developing these characteristics, any more than growing up without them automatically confers them. Rather, there are just more opportunities to learn these traits when life is difficult.
So if life is hitting you like a hammer, will you break or will you forge into steel? We have a choice as to whether to view events, whether good or bad, as opportunities for growth and improvement, or whether to become complacent, closed-minded, cynical, depressed, rigid, or judgmental.
Therefore, so-called good fortune can lead to a bad outcome and bad fortune can lead to a good outcome, or visa versa. So, who are we to judge whether an event is fortuitous or unlucky? What really matters is whether, on a daily basis, we are choosing to create good or bad outcomes out of the events in our lives.
Maybe, we should really change Kushner’s question to be: Are you creating purpose out of things that happen? If not, why not?