Once, my husband and I went out on a date night that went horribly wrong: We hit a pedestrian with our car—a Cadillac DeVille that I had inherited from my grandmother.
Trust me, when I first heard that thud and as we got out of the car, I was thinking some very unkind thoughts about us—we were fuck-ups, we’d ruined our lives, we’d ruined someone else’s life, they were going to take our kids away because we couldn’t be trusted to keep anyone safe.
Then I remembered something I need reminding of consistently, despite my 20 years learning the fine art of observing my thoughts:
There is always a loving reason for every catastrophe, minor or otherwise, if you look for it. Always. (Click to Tweet!)
Despite my ego’s enthusiasm for yelling at me and getting pissed at my husband, who was driving, here’s what I discovered to be the loving reasons behind that run-in:
- First, and most importantly, no one was hurt. We had only been going a couple miles an hour. Although the guy we ran into was definitely shocked, all he incurred was a bruise.
- Secondly, I got a chance to see some of my hidden beliefs about money. Because we were driving my granny’s Caddy, I was feeling horrible that we were bitchy rich people. I had been feeling conflicted about even inheriting that car, as if my having something nice were somehow hurting people who didn’t have something equally nice. This situation showed me a very literal example of my previously hidden fear. Which is a great thing indeed—because if I kept subconsciously staying closed to opportunities to receive more money, guess what—my chances of getting more money were going to be pretty darn low.
- Third, everyone got a chance to see how being decent and respectful is always possible and helps make a bad situation better.
- We got another reminder of how important it is to be mindful of your surroundings—to be here now, wherever here may be.
- And I don’t know exactly what happened to the guy as we never heard anything more about him (we did send him to the hospital to get checked out), but maybe he fell in love with the ER nurse, or maybe he and the friend he was visiting that night needed a chance to realize how much they cared about each other.
I don’t mean to be smug here. I’m not saying there was no harm done. I’m sure the guy we hit would rather NOT have been hit by a car that night, thank you very much. But sometimes shit happens. I prefer to think that there are good reasons for it and we don’t just live in a meaningless, random universe. You may not agree with me, and that’s OK!
But if you’d like to try looking for the good in any situation, no matter how sucky it may seem, here are some examples of how to choose a loving thought over a mean thought. I hope they help you think differently about your current or future tough spots:
- The burst pipes that happened just when you had gotten a little extra money
Mean reason: “As soon as I get money it goes right out the door.”
Loving reason: “This minor disaster happened at just the right time because I had the money ready to spend, and there’s more where that came from.”
- The job or client you wanted that you didn’t get
Mean reason: “I’m not good enough and there aren’t enough opportunities to go around.”
Loving reason: “There was some reason why that job or client wasn’t a good fit—even if I can’t see it, I trust that it’s there. Also, I’m open for the next thing that’s just as good or even better.”
- The major injury or illness you’re currently dealing with
Mean reason: “I’m doomed. I’m unlucky. I’m being punished. I’m stupid.” (Take your pick.)
Loving reason: “This situation is the perfect opportunity to learn something I wouldn’t have gotten otherwise—something I’m going to need to get to where I want to go whether it’s in this life or the next.”
- The time your boss (or your husband) yelled at you
Mean reason: “I’m stupid. She’s just a jerk. I’m stuck in this awful job (marriage) with no way out.”
Loving reason: “How did I contribute to the situation? Is this a nudging to either improve my communication skills, have a difficult conversation, or look for a different job (or consider changing my marital status)? I’m open to seeing the opportunities here.”
- The car accident
Mean reason: “I’m stupid. I need to be more vigilant. It was totally the other driver’s fault and it stinks that I now have to deal with this. I can’t possibly pay enough attention as I need to stay safe.”
Loving reason: “At some point, we are all going to bump in one another. I forgive myself for being one of the bumpees this time around. What could this situation be here to show me or to nudge me toward? What do I need to do to feel good about being in a car again? At some point, everything breaks and needs repair, how was this a good time for me to tend to my means of getting around?”
What other situations are you facing that you need help seeing the loving reason for it? Tell me a couple sentences in the comments below about what’s going on and I’ll send you my thoughts.