“Gratitude must be something we strive for.” These were the words I uttered to my friend, as he asked me to weigh in on his divorce.
I was quite intentional with the way I phrased my response, because when someone is expressing their pain to you, the first thing to do is listen. The second is to wait for them to ask for your input; and if they do not ask, do not offer it. More often than not, our deepest desire is simply to be understood, to be heard, void of being told what should be done, or what went wrong, or how things would have been different if we had only [insert hindsight].
If you are eventually asked for your input in the midst of someone’s crises, do not use the opportunity to employ your “I know what to do” or ‘right v. wrong’ agenda; do not rely on empty ego-boosts to distract them from their pain, and do not fall into the belittling of others. Above all else, do not say “everything happens for a reason,” because this offers no value to a wandering mind & no consolation to an aching heart. Speaking these words puts the recipient in a subconscious state of anxiety. When we are in the depths of our despair, we cling to anything that gives us hope, and this idea that ‘everything happens for a reason’ can cause us to become hyper-focused on a future that unfolds a magic reason. In this state of mind, we yearn for immediate validation of our trauma, and in doing so, we become so obsessed with witnessing this ‘reason’, that we ignore the greatest truth: we don’t need a reason. Life is still happening all around us.
Moving forward in life is an eventual process. We must allow that process, and enable it in others with compassion, no matter how long it may take. We must come to terms with the fact that we are in no position to even begin understanding the lessons others will learn, nor can we lessen their pain along the way. But we can listen without being instructors. We can empathize without being saviors. We can admit that no one has any idea what they are doing. And we should be grateful for the opportunity. Why?
Because as we age, walking through our valleys and over our peaks, we realize the truth that no matter what’s happening, no one gets out of life alive & the clock is still ticking. We arrive into a calming awareness of the human experience – one that softens us into clarity rather than contempt. And with this softening, comes the genesis of our freedom. This is the moment we begin living. The moment we admit our ultimate fear of laying on our deathbed, having lived so often in regret that our only wish is to go back and live in a different way. And so, gratitude must be something we strive for, because the only alternative is a fear that we already have the power to extinguish. The real question is when we choose to face that flame.
We are wired to memorialize courage – to find strength in our potential. What better way to exhibit this essence than to meet mortality with gratitude? Surely, we all walk different paths, but it seems all roads lead to this place… I’ll see you there.