Would You Do it Again? 4 Lessons in Pain and Triumph

Back in March, I asked this question: “If you’ve decided to do something that ended up painful, and you could go back in time and make that decision again, would you do it again?” I asked you to share your stories and what you have learned about loss, pain, resilience, and triumph.

(c) Dollar Photo

(c) Dollar Photo

Here’s what I learned from you.

Good decisions can turn out bad

In those cases, you would make the same decision again.

Here’s Jim:
I quit a good job that changed my future. I was working at Pratt & Whitney, and at 19 quit for construction. Gave up the warm factory to go outside and deal with the weather, porta-potties, no running water, phone, paid holidays, etc. Got laid off a week later.

From Sunil:
The sudden death of a good friend of mine on 17 March 2014 left me in a state of shock…I caught a flight to be with his family in Kolkata on the Tuesday night, getting to the end of the funeral on the Wednesday afternoon.
Sunil missed the funeral, but was still able to grieve with his friends. He believed he made the right decision.

Sometimes you would choose differently.

Derrick said:
I would (make a different decision). Oh God, I would. But we have to live with and learn from our mistakes. There is no way to take back wrongs.

According to Karen:
If I could turn back time, I would have made a lot of different choices. I would warn others to run from the same situation.

Another Karen:
Nope, would run the other direction!

You’ve learned and grown

Marilyn shared this story:
Dealing with various life crises: a challenging childhood, the brutal kidnapping, rape & murder of a sister, an unhappy marriage, the diagnosis and recovery of a special needs child, open heart surgery of a spouse, Guillaine-Barre, financial ruin, death, an extremely ugly divorce. The crises themselves were hard enough. They stripped you raw on every level: financial, emotional, intellectual etc. How you choose to move forward; especially in relationships defines you. Choose grace

Here’s what she said about it:
The wrong relationships can be difficult in the best of times. When life brings you to your knees; all the bad in the relationships that had been silently brewing for years comes to the surface. The crisis is a gift. You learn real quickly who is in your corner and who kicks/abandons you when you are down. You learn who you are. When the dust settles, & the worst of the crisis, the devastating pain & hard years of recovery are behind you; you reflect.
You are left wounded raw, with only a small smattering of true friends, not much money but buckets of clarity. And if you had enough faith, hope, love to get you through the life storm (integrity still intact); you are also left with deep gratitude for those few quality relationships, a peaceful, accepting, forgiving heart for those who hurt you and more love/happiness at having survived the crisis than you ever imagined. You grew. You changed. You evolved. Lemonade or lemons? Never choose bitter; reach instead for joy!

Ruth said this:
Holding grudges and bitterness over the years have caused me more pain than I would care to admit. But through a recent workout, I saw the cross once again and was reminded of the precious life I have and the grudges I didn't need to nurse any more. In a sense, I was freed from the thoughts that swirled in my head day after day, haunting me, nipping at my heels, causing me to cower and stoop and feel physically burdened by the cares of the world.
I would choose to acknowledge my reality and leave it in God's hands instead of holding things and nursing them in my own strengths. A shadow on a floor showed me that I was not done with this thing called forgiveness.

Jim had this perspective:
I was so young it took a few years to realize then I made a huge error. But as time went on and I learned a trade and met the people I met I had no regrets. If I stayed by that machine for 35 years I probably would be fat and rich or dead.

And Sunil:
The shock of the loss was overwhelming. I was in a complete daze and had to go to be with my friend's family to grieve with them. Painful as it was, I am so glad I went. It has been an on-going reminder to me as to how fragile life is and to make the most of every opportunity with friends and family. Life is a gift and it is so important not to waste it in complaining or bitterness. The experience has also deepened my walk with God and experience of His presence and love in Christ.

What we can all learn from these stories

  1. We can recover from even the most painful circumstances. Everyone who shared their stories indicated that some measure of healing had taken place in their lives. For you who are in the midst of struggle, it offers hope that this won’t last forever. As we saw in my post about Sheryl Sandberg, there is still the option for a kick-butt Plan B.
  2. It often takes time and distance to see the good. Jim looked back years later and saw good that came out of his decision. Sunil experienced it right away. When a situation isn’t resolved for a long time, or perhaps at all, it can take us longer to see the good in it. That’s when hope and faith come in. And when we need to look at other good around us to gain perspective.
  3. Forgiveness is important. Ask for forgiveness, forgive ourselves, and forgive others. It doesn’t always put things back the way they were, but forgiveness does cause healing. Derrick believes he has lost his honor, despite being forgiven. Ruth sees that forgiveness would have given her freedom had she extended it sooner.
  4. Whether we would or would not make the same decisions again, we can learn and grow from painful situations. No matter who caused them. Everyone who shared said they learned and grew. Marilyn was eloquent in her response on this topic.

“The crisis is a gift…. You are left wounded, raw, with only a small smattering of true friends, not much money but buckets of clarity… Never choose bitter; reach instead for joy”
Wise words from a woman made wise through her trials. I’m sure none of us, me included, saw our painful circumstances as a gift at first. But out of that we gained not only wisdom, but also perspective and gratitude for the blessings we have. Hard won wisdom. Joy that comes from choosing to see the beauty and embrace Plan B.

Think back to a decision you made that didn’t turn out well. Would you make the same decision again? Was what you learned worth the pain and struggle?
Now let’s look at it another way. Have you ever grown when life was easy? Or have the difficulties of your life caused the most growth? I think we all know the answer, much as we don’t like to admit it. Pain is hard. No one likes it. But since it’s going to happen anyway, we might as well learn something from it.

As A.A. Milne said in Winnie the Pooh,

Promise me you'll always remember: You're braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.

If you know someone who is in the midst of a difficult situation, please share the hard-won wisdom from those who have suffered and lived to tell about it.  Simply click the e-mail button or any of the social media buttons.  As always, we get more from the content when we share with one another.  Feel free to leave a comment.