Using adversity as a great learning experience

“Hey, Albert,” yelled Bob. “Come look at this!” Albert lowered his axe and walked over to where his younger brother stood. The brothers had been hired, along with a crew of men, to clear brush around a local lake. The area was being developed into a park and the county wanted to show the benefits of life at the lake. “Looks like a honeysuckle,” observed Albert.


“A person all wrapped up in themselves makes for a mighty small package.”

– Michael Bernard Beckwith, American New Thought minister and author

“Hey, Albert,” yelled Bob. “Come look at this!”

Albert lowered his axe and walked over to where his younger brother stood. The brothers had been hired, along with a crew of men, to clear brush around a local lake. The area was being developed into a park and the county wanted to show the benefits of life at the lake.

“Looks like a honeysuckle,” observed Albert.

“Yes,” replied Bob, “but look what it’s done.” The honeysuckle had wound itself tightly around the trunk of a small poplar tree – so tightly in fact that the poplar had actually grown around the vine creating a unique corkscrew design. Albert shrugged his shoulders and raised his axe. He and his brother had a lot of work to get done before the day would end.

“I’m going to cut out this piece and save it,” said Bob. “Hand me that swede saw.”

That evening, he showed the piece of wood to Albert’s wife, Eileen my mother). She marvelled at the unique design and thought it could make an interesting conversation piece. She immediately peeled the spiral section of wood and, after allowing time for the wood to cure, sanded it, shellacked it and prepared to give it a new life as the body of a table lamp.

Like the small poplar, many of us are entwined by circumstances that grow out of our control around us, that shape who we are and how we appear. Unfortunately, for some the “honeysuckle” is adversity in one form or another, unwanted and unexpected experiences that cause fear and uncertainty. Our personal honeysuckle strangles our best intentions and potential for growth.

How would our lives be different if we could be more like the poplar, adapting to the forces around us? What if — like the honeysuckle — adversity didn’t strangle us, but rather helped us to become something different — something remarkable? When you think back on those times of gut-wrenching personal crisis — can you see that they were also your moments of greatest learning — the time of your biggest self-change and personal evolution?

Experience has revealed to me that most painful events bring with them the opportunity for emotional, mental and spiritual growth. During these times, old ways of thinking and being are challenged, often prompting a process of self-assessment. We question ourselves and decisions. This is actually the first step in our personal evolution.

As our old selves are placed under increasing pressure, we shift into a state of resistance. We move into a defensive mode, ruthlessly defending our old self.

If the onslaught persists, we may begin to make unwanted compromises with ourselves or attempt to run away from the situation. There’s an old saying: what will come to pass will eventually come to pass. It may take weeks, months or even years, but life will eventually drag us kicking and screaming — or with head hung in resignation — through the doorway of self-discovery. Once on the other side, we often find something quite remarkable. Behind each of these seemingly impossible moments dwells a previously unseen purpose: to bring us closer to the truth of who we are and what we are capable of achieving.

When I reflect back on my life (the wonders of hindsight) most challenging events actually become blessings in disguise – an opportunity to learn, grow and expand my awareness. And I see that I could not have commenced the next level of my personal evolution without the event in question and the life lessons that came with it. In other words, what I had fought so hard to avoid was really a powerful truth come to rescue me from the clutch of self-ignorance.

For me (and perhaps for you) the greatest challenge has always been putting the brakes on my old thinking and conditioned patterns of behaviour. Fear always prompts the old self to assert itself. Without self-awareness, the old self can easily run away with us. As we raise our self-esteem and become “self” conscious, we can begin to recognize and defeat the old self.

Every milestone of life, as marked by each subsequent level of personal growth, comes to a happy conclusion only when the lesson driving that particular cycle is finally learned. It seems that each milestone is reached only when we bring conscious awareness to a profound truth about our own nature — a distinct realization of who we truly are.

You see, resting quietly in the middle of every unwanted experience is a truth that both liberates and lifts us to a new level of personal understanding. Fear may always be an element of the unexpected or the undesired, but if we can open ourselves to the life lessons contained within, we can move through each experience and emerge wiser and more enlightened.

“I will not die an unlived life,” wrote American best-selling author Dawna Markova.

“I will not live in fear of falling or catching fire. I choose to inhabit my days, to allow my living to open me, to make me less afraid, more accessible, to loosen my heart until it becomes a wing, a torch, a promise. I choose to risk my significance — to live so that which comes to me as seed goes to the next as blossom and that which comes to me as blossom, goes on as fruit.”

As the story goes, sometime later Great Uncle Lloyd came for a visit and spotted the section of tree. After studying it he declared, “You should keep this around so folks can see what happens when something gets wrapped around you for long enough.” Yes, it’s still around.

“Never tell me the sky’s the limit when (I know) there are footprints on the moon.”

— Author Unknown

Murray M. Fuhrer – The Self-Esteem Guy

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