by Christopher Harbin

Sadness Repurposed
Christopher B. Harbin
2 Corinthians 7:5-16

We don't like to be sadness. We often think that making people sad is evil in itself, as though our emotional state were the most important thing about us. In many cultures, we take this principle so far as to believe it is appropriate to tell someone what we think they want to hear, regardless of the degree of truth behind our words. We focus on the immediacy of current emotion, rather than on what is actually in another person's best interest, or, for that matter, even our own. We go so far as to build entire industries devoted to cover up sadness and make people momentarily happy. In devoting so much to overcome sadness, we tend to forget that there may even be a purpose for sadness, it may spark a benefit that might not be achieved any other way.

Psychologists tell us adversity is a great learning tool. Adversity helps change actions, attitudes, thoughts, and understanding of the world around us. It is part of our adaptation strategies to survive in a world beset by danger. We do not learn directly from adversity, however. We are hard-wired, on the other hand, to use adversity to find a better way forward. It becomes part of our survival mechanism tool box as we related the circumstances of life around us to how we can better move forward in a way that is more helpful to achieve our purposes, ambitions, dreams, values, and goals. At the same time, we avoid adversity and adverse circumstances in a way that may actually cause us harm, for it is possible that we short change ourselves from what we might have learned from facing some levels of adversity.

A tightrope walker does not begin learning to walk on a rope stretched ten feet off the ground. He begins to learn with manageable adversity conditions, graduating to a rope a foot or two above the ground only when ready to attempt it. His conditioning and training, however, make use of the principles of learning from adverse results to change ...

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