We all suffer from adversity. Sometimes the cause of our adversity is clear. The college student who gets drunk the night before a big test knows why he did poorly on the exam.
Often, however, the cause of our adversity is not clear. Perhaps we or a loved one becomes seriously ill. Maybe the company we work for goes out of business. Or a natural disaster destroys our home. In those cases, most of us have asked, “Why me?” or sometimes, “Why is life so unfair?”
The problem is neither question helps us deal with our adversity. When we focus our attention on the past by asking why, we often feel powerless. And that can extend and amplify our suffering.
Rather than lamenting the source of our misfortune, we usually can be better served by focusing on how we can learn from this experience to create a better future for us and our loved ones.
The next time you find yourself asking “Why me?” try asking yourself this question instead: “Where might this experience be taking me, and who might I become as a result?
If you catch yourself asking “Why is life so unfair?” try asking yourself, “How might I grow by being fully present in this experience?”
By shifting our focus from the past to the present, we can shift our mindset from helpless victimhood to empowerment. And isn’t that a better place to be?
Source: Estelle Frankel, Sacred Therapy: Jewish Spiritual Teachings on Emotional Healing and Inner Wholeness, page 178.
Why was I so fortunate to be born in America in the 20th century? Why was I so lucky to be the child of two wonderful parents who not only gave me good genes but instilled in me the love of learning and the value of hard work? Why was I blessed with natural abilities that helped me thrive in my professional career (but alas, prohibited a career as a shortstop)? Why have I been so lucky to avoid a serious illness?
We often lament “Why me?” when faced with adversity. Yet, we rarely ask “Why me?” when we experience good fortune. Somehow, we feel as if we are entitled to all of these blessings. We often fool ourselves into thinking that we are solely responsible for our success and good fortune.
But if we’re being honest, we know that is not true. We are only partially responsible for our success. We worked hard, made some good choices, and applied our natural talents to build a successful career. We have acted with integrity and caring to create satisfying relationships. We have done our best to be a good spouse, parent, child of aging parents and friend.
We certainly deserve some of the credit – just not all of it. Because we have also been extraordinarily lucky.
Take a moment and think of five blessings in your life that are just good luck. Can you feel a sense of gratitude arising within you for your good fortune? As that sense of gratitude builds, perhaps you also feel compassion for all those folks who have not been so fortunate or who have not had the same opportunities.
This exercise might increase your compassion for others, but chances are it will do even more for you personally because it is virtually impossible to be happy without developing a sense of gratitude and compassion.
So, the next time you feel the world is beating you down, take a moment to ask “Why me?” and think about all your blessings.