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Pain isn't a Hall Pass

“Every problem introduces a person to himself.” This was the opening thought Mike gave us on one of this week’s Leadershift calls. He then asked us what we believed that meant. One of the students responded by saying, “In adversity, we are reactionary, and what’s inside us comes out.” It’s true, isn’t it? When problems arise- especially problems that have to be addressed immediately or have a personal impact on us, it’s easy to react quickly. It’s easy to let that gut reaction take the wheel and guide the way we not only initially react, but also how we choose to handle the situation as a whole.

I’ll admit that there have been times that something comes up and I respond in a way I am completely ashamed of. My claws come out, my selfishness takes a front seat, and the idea of being “inconvenienced” becomes such a burden to me. Sometimes my response will shock me (and my husband), and I’ll mutter something like, “I don’t know what just happened.” But thinking about those moments now- I do know what happened. I was so focused on myself and how everything impacted me, and I didn’t have a tight reign over the pride in my heart. Writing this now, I feel a little gross. It’s not like I want to confess my shortcomings to you, but I say these things because I know I’m not alone in this. I know I’m not the only one whose gut reaction (with all its ugliness) takes the steering wheel.

I don’t like that ugliness. I don’t like the pride and entitlement that finds its way to the surface when a problem arises. It’s no way to live. Pain and problems can strike at any moment, and if I’m not prepared to respond in a healthy way, then I’m being controlled by my pride and my lack of self-control. There are deep rooted reasons as to why we respond the way we do. Trials will expose who we are. They reveal who we are on the inside- whether we like it or not.

So, what now? How do I get out of this perpetual state of poor reactions? Here are five action steps that Mike laid out for us on the call on Thursday.

First, choose a positive posture. This will give you the best chance to succeed. You have the choice to make life more livable, and you can make life’s lessons more learnable.

Second, there are times that you need to think creatively. It might seem impossible to see anything beneficial that could come from the trial you are facing, but just because it seems impossible doesn’t mean it is. Take time to gain different perspectives of your situation- it might just open your eyes to how you want to move forward.

Third, embrace the value of bad experiences. Something can be learned from every bad experience- every single time.

Fourth, make good changes after learning from bad experiences. Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced. And what is at the heart of change? Your emotions. Don’t stuff down your emotions. Rather, allow them to be the catalyst for change.

Fifth, take responsibility for your life. You can’t control everything that happens to you, but you alone decide how you will respond to it. Often times, a situation becomes a hundred times worse when we respond poorly, versus responding with grace, love, and self-control. If you respond in anger, it isn’t a coincidence when the problem begins to escalate.

As Mike says, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten.” I can’t just hope that my response will be seasoned in grace next time a problem arises. That would be foolish. I have to do the grunge work first. I have to get dirty, get uncomfortable, and be willing to pull those overgrown weeds in my heart.