Dennis and Clyde are brothers, less than a year apart. Their parents were self-employed professionals who spent a great deal of time away from home and away from their growing sons. Dennis chose to blame his "neglectful" parents for virtually all of his adult problems, which included alcoholism and divorce. Clyde, on the other hand, chose to view his parents' busy life and absence as passion for their creation and became a very successful non-profit business owner and attentive father of two.
Same events, different choices. In a very real sense, all events are neutral. It is how we choose to respond to them that determines our experience -- both present and future. Let me say it another way. The events that stand before you right now, especially the painful ones, are there as a multiple-choice personal quiz. How you answer the questions will direct the next steps on your path. Are you choosing the option of personal responsibility and opportunity? Do you pivot to see the best of an unfortunate past event or are you in the same boat with Dennis, choosing suffering and victimhood for the rest of your life? We have the choice, every moment, with every event. Will you choose to stay focused in the past, move beyond it or leverage that event into a present-time success?
Have you hear of Mukhtar Mai? She is a Pakistani woman who was ordered, by her local tribal council, to be gang raped as punishment to her family for an offence allegedly committed by her 12-year-old brother. After the attack she did something unthinkable for a poor woman in Pakistan. She testified against her attackers and put them in prison. The government paid her $8,000 (USD) in restitution and she opened her village's first two schools - one for girls and one for boys. She then enrolled the children of the men who raped her in those schools. Although the Pakistani government has attempted to stop her from telling her story, she recently traveled to the U.S. on a speaking tour. Mai is a hero to many and is considered the Rosa Parks of Pakistan.
Mai experienced something most of us will, fortunately, never have to. Mai chose to leverage a horrible and potentially paralyzing past event into an opportunity to uplift others, educate children and change the world. Quite a brave choice, I'd say.
Ask a better question.
When a not-so-pleasant event occurs in your life, don't ask Why. (Why now? Why me? Why not? Why this? Why?) There are no solid and helpful answers to these questions and asking "Why?" can lead to a spiral of additional not-so-pleasant feelings such as guilt and blame. Ask a better question - "What is happening in my inner world that drew this event to me? What do I need to pay attention to? What gem of wisdom is here for me? What message was I sending that gave me this response?" And the ultimate question: "In what way can I adjust my habit of thought or behaviour or the environment that I live in to keep events like this from becoming a frequent visitor in my life?"
Ask a better question and you'll receive a better answer and therefore a better direction to fulfilment, wholeness and well-being.