Read Mira Kirshenbaum's transcript about Everything Happens For A Reason
Is it really true that everything happens for a reason? After all, that's an amazing thing to say-that no matter what happens to you, not only does something valuable come out of it but it's just what you were needing.
Amazing as it is, it is true. It's taken me a long time, but I now see, based on new research, that even in the worst disaster, and I've had my share, there are wonderful gifts, hidden opportunities, or life-enhancing lessons that we've needed to learn. And we couldn't have learned them any other way.
A woman I know threw her back out and had to spend a month in bed. She felt that this was the last thing she needed in her life, particularly since this was a time when she had to make some important decisions. And then it hit her - this was exactly what she needed. Her old habit had been to rush impetuously into a new decision without thinking it through. Now it was as if life were saying, "If you won't give yourself time to think, I'll give you time to think."
The truth is that we very much want to believe that the things that happen to us have great meaning. It's the way we feel life should be. And you need to get to this place, because if you don't, nothing is going to feel right. Let's say you're outdoors and you suddenly feel a drop of moisture fall on your head. You're not going to be able to think of anything else until you figure out why that happened. Is water dripping from some air conditioner high up? Is it starting to rain? Is a flying monkey peeing on your head? You have to know why because you can't feel safe going forward until you figure out why. And that's just for a drop of moisture.
How much more we need to know why when what fell on our heads is a catastrophe. Then if you can't make sense of the catastrophe, it's like your life were mere dice on a crap table-if nothing has any meaning, anything can happen.
It's painful to live not knowing why you got sick or why you lost the love of your life, much more painful than people suspect. One guy said, "When I think about the bad stuff that's happened to me, I feel I'm just a goddamn fool of the cosmos. It's humiliating! On a sidewalk crowded with people, I'm the one who's stepped in the dog poop. No one else is as stupid or unlucky as I am. The problem is-how can I go forward, how can I trust the future if I feel I'm just this stupid unlucky guy?"
I talked to people who had discovered on their own some deeper reason for some event in their lives. When I analyzed all the reasons people found for why things happen to us, I discovered that there were actually only ten reasons:
Here's how to think of the ten reasons. Imagine that your life is a long, difficult journey. At some point you start running short of what you need. As you struggle on, you suddenly fall into a hole and hurt yourself. Ouch!
- to help you feel at home in the world
- to help you totally accept yourself
- to show you that you can let go of fear
- to bring you to the place where you can feel forgiveness
- to help you uncover your true hidden talent
- to give you what you need to find true love
- to help you become stronger
- to help you discover the play in life
- to show you how to live with a sense of mission
- to help you become a truly good person
But it turns out that it's not all negative. On the contrary. If only you look, you'll find that right there in that hole is something you've desperately needed to complete your journey successfully. And you wouldn't have found it if you hadn't fallen in that hole. As time goes on, you may be able to say that the fall was worth the discovery.
Understanding the true meaning of the events of your life is more important than you might ever have imagined. How so? I discovered that there's one basic principle underlying the ten reasons: The good that comes out of the bad things that happen to you is to help you become your best, most authentic self.
Each of the ten reasons is a different way of helping you become your best self. And your reason is the specific resource you need to do a better job leading the life you were meant to lead as the person you were meant to be.
Things happen in your life to help you get rid of the parts of yourself that aren't you. To help you be more real and more yourself in your life, not like everyone else. To help you lead a more authentic life. And ultimately to help you discover who you really are.
Things often happen to us in life that take us away from who we really are. And the further we drift, the more likely it is that it's going to take some final loss or difficulty to shove in our faces the fact that we don't even know who we are anymore. This helps us wake up so we can once again rediscover our true selves.
Here's a story I heard from the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams.
Rabbi Yehuda was the holiest man of his age. One night he dreamt that he had died and was brought before the throne of heaven. And the angel who stands before the throne said to him, "Who are you?" "I am Rabbi Yehuda of Prague," he replied. "Tell me, my lord, if my name is written in the book of all who will share in the kingdom of heaven."
"Wait," said the angel. "I shall read the names of all who died today that are written in the book." And he read aloud the names, thousands of them. As the angel read, Rabbi Yehuda saw fly into heaven the spirits of all those whose names had been called.
At last the angel finished reading, and Rabbi Yehuda's name had not been called. He wept bitterly.
The angel said, "But I have called your name."
Rabbi Yehuda said, "I did not hear it."
And the angel said, "In the book are written the names of all the people who have ever lived, for every soul is an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven. But many come here who have never heard their true names on the lips of man or angel. They have lived believing that they know who they really are, but they don't know. And so when they're called to heaven by their names as who they really are, they don't recognize themselves. They don't realize that it's for them that the gates of heaven are opened. So they must wait until they know their true selves and so recognize their true names."
At this Rabbi Yehuda woke and, rising from his bed with tears, he lay prostrate on the ground and prayed, "Master of the Universe! Grant me once before I die to hear my own true name as who I really am."
Many more of us are like Rabbi Yehuda than we might think. On the surface we have complete identities-names, degrees, professions, job titles, affiliations. Then some cruel-seeming event comes along and is actually kinder than we might think. It wakes us up to the fact that we've not known our true selves. And at the same time it teaches us some lesson-one of the ten reasons for the events of our lives-that makes it possible for us to finally become who we really are.
Mira Kirshenbaum is the internationally bestselling, prize-winning author or co-author of eleven books. Her books are available in over fifteen languages. They are all based on presenting the best solutions people have found to the problems many of us struggle with. Her books range from "Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay" to "The Emotional Energy Factor" (both were two-time finalists in the Psychology category for the National Books for A Better Life Award). Mira has appeared on the Today Show, has been featured on a 20/20 Prime-Time Special, and has been taped at her home for an appearance on the Oprah Show. Mira's just-published book "Everything Happens for a Reason: Finding the True Meaning of the Events in Our Lives." More information about it and her work can be found at her websites: www.MiraKirshenbaum.com and www.EverythingHappensForAReason.org