By Barnes Boffey
People who hope that life will be filled with only smooth moments and pleasurable events are actually working against their own happiness. We should be praying not for smooth roads, but for the strength and resiliency to handle those roads in ways that will allow us to be proud, strong and successful. A life well-lived will have its share of tragedy, sadness, failure and struggle. Mental health is a reflection of our ability to face these events with clarity and strength, and to cope with them in reasonable ways within a reasonable amount of time.
As parents should be praying that our children do have difficulty in school and with friends, and in groups and in situations where they are trying something new. We obviously don’t want these difficulties to crush them, but without difficulties as children, they can never learn the resiliency needed in later life. People whose roads are too smooth learn to expect that smoothness, and then when life throws it’s inevitable curve ball, they are knocked off balance and unable to understand what has happened or what to do.
Many of us aspire to be wise in our older years, looking at the lessons of life and being able to abstract thoughful lessons about the meaning of life and how to thrive as human beings. Wisdom does not come from success. Wisdom comes mostly from failure and pain. Wisdom is distilled pain, just as maple syrup is distilled sap. It takes 40 gallons of sap to make a gallon of syrup. It takes many painful experiences to create a drop of wisdom. Looking back over the many painful moments that I have had in the midst of addiction, divorce, family death, illness, depression and failure, I am grateful for the wisdom that has come from that. I am finally ready to be a healthy person myself and to be able to help others in their struggles.
We cannot be much help to others unless we can understand their struggles. The most powerful understandings do not come from books; they come from having personally failed and succeeded in the situations our clients, friend and families are in.
In the words of and unknown Confederate soldier:
I asked for strength that I might achieve;
I was made weak that I might learn humbly to obey.
I asked for health that I might do greater things;
I was given infirmity that I might do better things.
I asked for riches that I might be happy;
I was given poverty that I might be wise.
I asked for power that I might have the praise of men;
I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God.
I asked for all things that I might enjoy life;
I was given life that I might enjoy all things.
I got nothing that I had asked for,
but everything that I had hoped for.
Almost despite myself my unspoken prayers were answered;
I am, among all men, most richly blessed.