Please welcome my dear, long-time, real-life friend, Kate! She is a brilliant and hilarious young woman, so basically…you’re welcome! -Everly
People always talk about counting blessings, which is great! However, how many times do we think of the benefits of difficulty in our life? Sure, it is a blessing you aced that Biology test, but what did you learn the first time you failed an exam?
1) It’s easier to measure negative experiences. Scientifically speaking (*quickly tosses on a white lab-coat*), things can’t be “proven” without measurements of some sort. Good memories are measurable but, honestly, how easily do you remember all the good things that happen to you? In psychology they discuss “cognitive biases” one of which asserts that we remember (and, in fact, can’t forget) bad things that happen to us. Think about it. Do you recall the time that nice old man opened the door for you at the supermarket or that time a stranger took a head of cabbage from the produce bin and shook out the water all over you at the supermarket (the last one is a true story…and yes, I’m still bitter about it…but this is not relevant…)? The last one is more memorable and negative feelings are usually stronger than positive ones. Which one hurts more: falling in love with someone or breaking up with someone? This also explains the general tendency to complain, even years after the incident took place.
So, next time some “Sunny Sue” tells you to stop griping and count your blessings and you can’t think of any, just remember the woman who shook cabbage water on you. What did you learn from that? Nothing? Really? Okay…well, you learned to keep a safe distance from people wielding damp vegetables. Oh! And it’s kind of a funny story…right? See, there is something positive to be learned!
[Note: The first time I heard of “cognitive biases” was while eavesdropping at a coffee shop. This happens frequently…
Note II: Of course it isn’t always true we remember more bad things, but it is something to think about.
Note III/Random Fact: Did you know that crows never forget a person who did something bad to them? That’s right. So every time you shooed a crow away from your car or yelled at it because it swiped your sandwich, they ALL remember your face. How creepy is that?
2) As I briefly mentioned before, we can learn more from negative experiences. Like the example with the Biology test I discussed at the beginning of the post…you passed the test? Wow, that’s great! Congratulations! Do you remember the first exam you took? Oh yes, the one you utterly, tragically failed. But you learned something from that, didn’t you? You learned that you first must STUDY, a very very very valuable lesson. Sure, it would’ve been great if you had realized that before the test. So what if you didn’t fail the test for lack of trying, just an unfortunately incomplete knowledge on the subject? You still learned something. By going to talk to the teacher or other classmates, you learn the correct answers and can understand why they are correct.
In that way, hardship also brings us seconds chances. Since you didn’t do well on the first test, the second time you can alter your reaction.
So what if you panicked last week when that thing happened and freaking out just made it worse? There’s always another hardship! And now you know next time not to panic and just go with the flow.
3) You can meet people! All of these are to be considered case-by-case, but sometimes through really unfortunate circumstances you can meet cool, weird, fun, or exciting people. Remember that time you got stranded at the Minneapolis airport because of a blizzard? Sure, you ended up spending the first night on the airport floor, but what about the next night when you were still stranded and the airline gave you hotel vouchers? You ended up riding a shuttle to the hotel and met a U.S. Army brat who had grown up in Okinawa, Japan (and who also happened to have an uncanny resemblance to one of your friends) and four college students from Japan. Aside from meeting those cool people, you also discovered the SPAM museum and got to tour the Mall of America. Oh, that never happened to you? Well, I bet you had some similarly interesting acquaintances with people due to an unexpected delay or incident.
4) Difficulties shape who we are and who we become. We wouldn’t be where or who we are if we didn’t have a past and an inevitable part of the past is hardship. I truly believe adversity is crucial and essential. Have you ever seen those kids that never had to work hard for anything, stayed comfortable, and just had everything handed to them? Their stories aren’t interesting. Throw a few difficulties and uncomfortable lessons in there and they would be different people with a completely different outlook on life.
So, if you’ve already counted your blessings, go back and remember all the awkward, embarrassing, inconvenient, lousy things that have happened to you in the past week and add them to the list. Which brings me to #5…
5) It makes your list longer! If you include difficulties with your list of blessings, you’ll have the longest list of blessings ever! Not that it’s a competition, but still…winning is fun.