Whether you have been a victim of abuse, experienced the struggles of divorce, the untimely death of a friend or family member or even felt as though you have lost everything. At some point, we each have become acquainted with sorrow and pain. Merriam-Webster defines tragedy as “an event that causes great sadness and often involves someone's death, a very sad, unfortunate, or upsetting situation, something that causes strong feelings of sadness or regret.”
Tragedies happen, and they affect each of us. In my experience, I have learned that there are three purposes tragedies serve in our lives. Tragedies measure our character. They teach us incredible life lessons and allow us to develop our deeper more compassionate feelings.
Measure your character
The strength of your character is revealed in how you deal with tragedy. You can feel sorry for yourself, stay angry and unforgiving, become apathetic and lose all desire to do anything and die. Hearing stories of those who have overcome, what seem to be impossible trials, are admirable. Aron Ralston tells of one of the great tragedies of his life in his book 127 hours: Between a Rock and a Hard Place._
As Aron was hiking through a narrow canyon, an 800 pound boulder crashed toward him trapping his arm between the boulder and the canyon wall. For more than five days, he was trapped hoping that someone would come to his rescue. Testing his ultimate will to live, Aron removes his own arm in order to escape tragedy. What are the boulders in your life? Are you willing to do what it takes to continue to live?
Learn life lessons
Refrain from asking yourself why you have to go through the trials that you do. In the military, we have a phrase we use in difficult circumstances, “embrace the suck.” This means that whatever your difficulties, you should acknowledge them and embrace them. Do not ask “Why me?” A better question to ask is what should I learn from this tragedy? How can I be a better person for having gone through this experience? Your strength in times of difficulties is crucial for your family. Your example can be the means of strengthening your loved ones through times of trial. As your loved ones see your example, they will follow you.
Think of the tragedy that plagues your life. You can use this tragedy to learn something, to develop compassion and love for others who also suffer, to practice forgiveness and patience. Saying that is easy, but when you are in the heat of a challenging experience it is not always easy to be patient, forgiving and strong. The difficulties, pain and anguish associated with such difficulties can be a heavy burden in your life. Whatever the challenge in your life, say out loud to yourself, “this too shall pass.” Repeat this over and over again until you can recognize the positive things that will come your way. Reach out in your mind to the future and envision yourself having successfully negotiated the tragedy. You must be able to see yourself happy in the future.
The sadness you experience will serve as a test of your character. Faithfully moving forward and seeking solutions to problems in your life will help you make it through the difficult times. Embrace the lessons that are being offered to you. Oftentimes trials will refine us, and we will emerge better people. Use these experiences to develop compassion for others. As you reach out to lift those who are trapped under their own 800 pound boulder, you will see your own troubles fade away.