Perspectives: Learning gratitude for our challenges

Photo by Dave Amodt, St. George News

OPINION – It’s pretty easy to be grateful for the things in our lives that went right. So easy, in fact, that it begins to sound cliché.

In a departure from the standard generalized platitudes regarding family, health, freedom, et cetera, I’ve spent some time pondering those times when things didn’t go well: times when I’ve stumbled and fallen; crashed and burned; failed spectacularly.

And it turns out that there’s reason to be deeply grateful for each and every one of them.

I’m not sharing these experiences to elicit sympathy. I share them because I’m convinced that many of our most painful or difficult moments contain powerful lessons that can transform us into better individuals. They just have to be viewed from the right perspective.

For instance, I’m grateful that my family struggled financially as I was growing up. I clearly remember wearing the same worn out clothing day after day in seventh grade and how self-conscious I felt. Every penny that my parents earned went to paying my father’s medical bills and keeping a roof over our heads.

To earn money, I carried a paper route every morning, rain or shine, for four years. It taught me to be resourceful. I learned how to honor my commitments, to be responsible, and to exceed the expectations of my customers. Most importantly, I got the opportunity to really know my neighbors as I went around collecting subscription money every month.

I wasn’t flush with cash, but my daily route kept me in shape. I learned to appreciate the quiet solitude of the early morning. My footprints were always the first in the fresh-fallen snow. I even saw the Northern Lights on a couple of occasions.

I would have missed out on some great experiences and priceless friendships had my parents simply been able to foot the bill for my needs.

I’m also grateful for the times I’ve had my heart broken. No, I’m not a masochist. But real heartbreak is among the most powerful catalysts known to man. It can refine us in ways that good fortune never could.

The time that my then-fiancé handed the ring back to me and broke off our engagement was among the most devastating moments of my life. The heartache was compounded by profound embarrassment since we had become engaged very publicly. But the experience provided a moment of clarity that eventually led me to the love of my life.

When I met Becky, I had no desire to pursue a relationship of any kind. I did, however, wish to be her friend. Instead of setting out to pursue romance, I sought to learn about and encourage her best qualities. This meant focusing on things other than mere physical attraction. Obviously, this required resisting any urge to allow my hormones to offer their enthusiastic input. I wanted to know that whatever our friendship was based upon was absolutely real.

I did not try to make out with Becky or hold her hand. I paid close attention to how I allowed myself to think about her. There was no pressure on either one of us to become a couple. And our friendship blossomed and grew.

By the time we realized that we had a future together, I had come to love her with a purity that I could not have imagined. I don’t know that I would have had the strength to approach our friendship as I did without having experienced the misery of that broken engagement.

This year we’ll celebrate our 22nd anniversary and I’ll continue to marvel at how I managed to end up with such a marvelous wife and mother to my kids. That’s why I can feel gratitude for my heart having once been destroyed.

As we reflect on the things for which we’re grateful today, let’s not forget that there is value in the events and experiences that tested us. It can be a real challenge to see that value while we’re in the midst of those tests. But time has a way of helping us see how they served as defining moments for us.

When we take thoughtful inventory of our blessings, we come to see how our struggles and failures have made our triumphs all the sweeter.

Bryan Hyde is a news commentator and co-host of the Perspectives talk show on Fox News 1450 AM 93.1 FM. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

Email: bryanh@stgnews.com

Twitter: @youcancallmebry

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2013, all rights reserved.

Photo by Dave Amodt, St. George News
Photo by Dave Amodt, St. George News

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