September 19, 2011
Many people who experience a traumatic event, such as a natural disaster, often ask themselves, “Why me?” When I share the news of a negative event with my extended family, someone always says, “Why did this happen to you? You don’t deserve it!”
These are the wrong questions. If I were to dwell on the “Why me?” whenever something negative happens, I would not be able to heal. I would be stuck on that one emotional plateau. I have to move beyond that question in order to move forward in my life.
Then there are people who console me by asking, “What did you learn?” This also is the wrong question. Sometimes, there isn’t anything to learn from the experience. Sometimes, I think, the experience happens to me to help someone else learn something. Sometimes, the event is something that simply has to be endured. Inevitably, I learn something, but I don’t believe that this is always the reason for the event.
Even if the question itself isn’t the right question, it does serve a purpose. Asking ourselves, “What did I learn?” helps us to move past the negative experience easier than asking ourselves, “Why me?” By asking ourselves the “What did I learn?” question, we focus on the positive aspects of the experience. When we ask ourselves, “Why me?” we focus on the negative aspects of the experience. Whether we focus on the positive or the negative will determine how quickly we heal from the event, and how successfully we are able to move beyond the negative experience.
There is another group of people that believe our thoughts create our own realities. I do believe this to a certain extent. But I think this philosophy doesn’t take into account the power, bounty, and mercy of God. Sometimes bad things just happen to good people for no apparent reason.
The Writings of many of the world’s religions tell us that our trials and difficulties help us to grow. Our difficulties and trials allow us to develop into the spiritual beings that we are meant to be. By experiencing negative events, we have the opportunity to detach ourselves from the unimportant objects of this world. Objects such as material possessions.
`Abdu’l-Bahá, one of the world’s greatest teachers, tells us that: “The mind and spirit of man advance when he is tried by suffering. The more the ground is ploughed the better the seed will grow, the better the harvest will be. Just as the plough furrows the earth deeply, purifying it of weeds and thistles, so suffering and tribulation free man from the petty affairs of this worldly life until he arrives at a state of complete detachment. His attitude in this world will be that of divine happiness. Man is, so to speak, unripe: the heat of the fire of suffering will mature him. Look back to the times past and you will find that the greatest men have suffered most.”
If the difficulties and suffering that I experience will help me to attain divine happiness, then I can accept the trials with grace. If they are going to rid me of the weeds and thistles in my life, then I can see a purpose for something that would otherwise be meaningless. If I’m going to benefit spiritually from the negative experience, then the question becomes, “Why not me?”