I’ve been reading Mira Kirshenbaum’s book Everything Happens for a Reason. It’s a thoughtful exploration of how we assign meaning to events in our lives, particularly as to the way that challenging events give us opportunities to grow more fully into ourselves.
One of her key points is that the meaning is not in the event itself, but rather the meaning is within each of us. So, while two people might experience the unexpected loss of employment, they may each tell a different story about how that event was a catalyst for some sort of personal growth. According to Kirshenbaum, when we look for meaning in a life event, we can place it in one of ten categories/stories:
- To help you feel at home in the world
- To help you totally accept yourself
- To show you that you can let go of fear
- To bring you to the place where you can feel forgiveness
- To help you uncover your true hidden talent
- To give you what you need to find true love
- To help you become stronger
- To help you discover the play in life
- To show you how to live with a sense of mission
- To help you become a truly good person
Of course, the alternative is to believe that everything happens at random and nothing has any meaning, ever. In that paradigm, it’s easy to fall into despair and see ourselves as hapless victims in a series of events we have no control over.
While it’s true to a great extent that we can’t control what happens to us, what we can control is our response. If we allow the challenges we experience in life to shape us, to change us for the better, that says a great deal about the development of personal character.
To take it a step further, if we actively participate in the process by viewing these events as opportunities for growth, and we maximize the value of each in helping us become more fully who we really are, we may find a greater sense of peace within ourselves and a greater sense of purpose in our lives.