“When we meet real tragedy in life, we can react in two ways – either by losing hope and falling into self-destructive habits, or by using the challenge to find our inner strength.” ~Dalai Lama
We toss the phrase around, “such a senseless tragedy.”
But the effects of any tragedy are “sense-full” not sense-less.
The sights, sounds, and feelings in the aftermath of any tragedy, whether played out on the world stage—like the Paris attacks on Friday—or in the supposedly safer confines of our homes in the lives of our families, leave us reeling with sensory overload.
My own family suffered two tragedies this year: one with a sad outcome, one (hopefully) with a happier one. Both rattled the foundations of our faith and caused me, at least, to question the greater good that might be hiding somewhere under the covers, in the darkness of my confusion. Hiding where I couldn’t find it.
How can good come from bad?
Yet it does, all the time, to the degree we believe it can, and will.
- The horror of Nazi death camps propelled the world to create Israel.
- My near-death experience of a decade ago propelled me in a new and more rewarding direction.
- Superman’s fall from a horse propelled huge advances in treatments for those who are paralyzed.
- Amber Alerts
I could list a thousand examples. Good can, and does, result from bad. When we let it.
But—and this is a big ‘but’—the physical and emotional effects of any tragic event are defined, not by the event itself, but rather by our responses to it.
We can allow our natural reactions of shock and sadness to suck us into a malaise that prevents us from seeing any silver lining, any hope of moving forward, or we can use those same reactions to propel us into a future that reflects a deeper commitment to notice and appreciate the beauty and brilliance around us every day.
To see the good in the bad.
I am reminded of Bishop Desmond Tutu’s words in response to a journalist’s question when Tutu won the Nobel Peace Prize. He was asked how he could maintain such a positive and hopeful outlook for the future of the world in the face of so much negativity and tragedy.
His response, spoken with confidence and twinkling eyes, stays with me to this day:
“Because I’ve read the book, and I know who wins in the end!”
And now, around the world, people are coming together, showing their support for the French, but more, uniting to say “no more.”
Yet, the larger question becomes, what good will flow from the tragic events in each of our own lives?
What good might we create collectively by doing so?
Because Isis (and all radicalism) is a visceral example of those who have allowed their personal responses to whatever tragedies they have experienced to harden into a collective consciousness of destruction.
Paris and the people of France—experts on resilience—will recover, as will we all, if we keep our hearts and minds open to believing it.
Tragedy is far from senseless. Rather it can knock some sense into us.
If we let it.
“Tragedy is a tool for the living to gain wisdom, not a guide by which to live.” ~Robert Kennedy