The lessons of life

Sunday, December 2, 2012

"Oh daddy," the little girl, Jackie, wailed. "I wanted to win so badly but I did horrible."

Jackie was sorely disappointed because she felt she had performed so poorly that day. Jackie had begun horseback riding lessons about a year ago and dearly loved the sport. Now she entered competitions within her range of ability.

This Sunday Jackie had won sixth place in the first round. The next time, however she captured second place. This rank allowed her to qualify for the championship contest. There, Jackie claimed only seventh from seven competitors, the last in the lineup. As her dad, Ray, was telling me the story concerning his daughter's disappointment, I asked "What did you say to her about her dilemma?"

Ray said, "After consoling her, I told her that this was just one of life's lessons she had learned. She, at least, was chosen to be in the championship contest. But you win sometimes and you lose sometimes." Being the good parents Ray and his wife were, they decided to enroll Jackie in some private lessons so she could be better prepared the next time.

I mulled the story and liked the way Ray had handled the situation. He could have agreed with his daughter that, yes, it was indeed awful, the judges were unfair and given numerous other excuses why Jackie had failed to do so well. However, he took a teaching moment and explained to Jackie that occurrences such as this are all a part of life and she couldn't let letdowns get the best of her. Rather she had to accept them as challenges and try to do better the next time. In the meantime, she needed to practice more and find out all she could about what was expected in the competitions. Ray not only briefed his daughter, but the parents did something to help her. They tried to assist her in becoming more skilled by enrolling her in private horseback riding lessons. Fortunately they were financially able to do this.

This example happened to a 9-year-old girl; but life is filled with challenges for people in all age groups. Bad things happen, disappointments occur and depression can result. But you can't allow failures or disappointments to ruin your perspective.

The author, James Allan, cited a story in his book "The Path to Prosperity" that we can all learn from. "Two men, at an early age, lost all their hard-earned savings through a bank failure. One man became very despondent, disappointed, angry, and did nothing but complain. On the other hand the other man, too, was upset and saddened, but he took an alternate route in his thoughts. He said, 'Yes, I've lost my money, but complaining and being angry about it will only make things worse. I'll just get busy and make it back.'" You probably already know the outcome of that scenario. The first man who became bitter and remained so ruined his whole life by the way he interpreted his misfortune. The other man gained his money back and remained prosperous throughout his lifetime.

Everybody experiences hard times, but if you do something about what happens rather than merely grumble, good comes from them. Both of the stories I've told in this article are true to life happenings we can all relate to. Learning the lessons of life is difficult and unpleasant, but if you genuinely look for what's underneath you'll eventually find the purpose. I've known people who blame someone or something else for all the failures they encounter rather than find the erroneous patterns and try to improve. Everything happens for a reason. "For I know the plans I have for you says the Lord, they are plans for good and not for disaster to give you a future and a hope." (Jeremiah 29:11) Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.

Ellen Shuck holds degrees in psychology, religious education and spiritual direction and provides spiritual direction to people at her office.

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