I recently listened to a friend’s frustrations with her roommate. The roommate often encouraged behavior and ideas that were in conflict with my friend’s true values. In an attempt to “look on the bright side,” I remarked that their lease was coming to an end in a few months, so she wouldn’t have to endure the situation much longer.
Is this how we want to spend the moments of our lives…just enduring them and wishing they would pass quickly?
Just before this conversation, I received a note from a dear friend. He told me about the wonderful things his children were doing, their accomplishments, and the happiness of his family. His summary went something along the lines of, “Life is good, in all the important ways.” This person had previously suffered with health problems, occupational stress, and other concerns. Were those times of his life any less precious, or important, than the happier times he was now living?
As the Palestinian poet, Naomi Shihab Nye, writes: Before you know what kindness really is you must lose things, feel the future dissolve in a moment like salt in a weakened broth. What you held in your hand, what you counted and carefully saved, all this must go so you know how desolate the landscape can be between the regions of kindness... Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside, you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
It’s commonly accepted that the surest way to “spoil” a child is to give him everything he wants, so he never develops an appreciation for anything he has. It’s why psychologist John Rosemond, PhD, encourages us to give our children healthy doses of “Vitamin N” by telling them “no” on a regular basis. In the same way, running from the discomforts, the less-than-perfect episodes in our lives, deprives us of appreciation for the happier times, as well as the opportunity for growth, learning, and the strength that comes from knowing we can live and thrive in spite of, and sometimes because of, our challenges.
It would have been better had I asked my friend what she’s learning from living with someone so different—about finding common ground, opening her mind to other ideas, accepting people for who they are. And more importantly, what she’s finding about herself—what she knows to be true about life, whether she judges those who are different, how to have compassion when others’ ideas conflict with her own, and where she finds the courage to maintain her own convictions in the face of pressure to change and fit in.
Each moment in our lives matters—the difficult ones as well as the happy ones. While we prefer the latter, it’s possible that the challenging times form the foundation that allows us to enjoy and appreciate those happier moments. It also gives us the confidence that we can make those difficult times worthwhile and meaningful. So, in what ways does this moment matter to you?