It’s so interesting how an individual’s story can be empowering or disabling, based solely on that person’s reaction to those life events.
What do I mean?
Most of us know people who have experienced setbacks and terrible conditions early in life. When they describe the conditions, you can sense that these bad experiences are the basis of empowerment. Others feel victimized, however, and never seem to be able to overcome those events. When their stories are told, you sense their brokenness and loss of spirit.
How many times have you heard a story about a child raised in poverty, who uses the memory of early hardships to propel them to high levels of wealth and productivity?
Of course, there are many stories about children raised in poverty, who never break the cycle and remain throughout adulthood.
How many times have you heard a story about a young person who endured terrible abuse, but used that experience to assist and encourage others in a positive and uplifting manner.
Of course, there are many stories of abuse that breaks the spirit, and leads to permanent feelings of helplessness and victimization.
Oprah’s story is a good example of overcoming both childhood poverty and abuse.
I certainly do not want to suggest that I have a quick and easy solution to the complexity and difficulty of overcoming childhood poverty, abuse, and any other negative experience that leads to unproductive lifestyles. I don’t.
I am not a professional in this area, and I do not want to appear judgmental about people who never seem to overcome the constraints of negative experiences.
However, I will make a simple observation: Some people overcome, and others do not.
From a lifetime of reading about people (“Who Are The Knights At Your Roundtable“) who have done well after enduring difficult circumstances (think Frederick Douglass), it seems like the resilience and fortitude is generated by something very simple:
Perspective. (“What Is Your Perspective“)
What separates people who have an empowering perspective, versus a disabling perspective?
I believe it is the questions they ask themselves, all the time.
Instead of “Why did this happen to me?”,
try “What good can come of this tragedy?”
Instead of “How was she so cruel?”,
try “What motivates me to be a far better person than my perpetrator?”
Instead of “How can I face the humiliation?”,
try “How can I live my life to empower others, based on sharing my past?”
Instead of “Why am I feeling down today?”,
try”Why am I fortunate today?”
Instead of “What can this person do for me?”,
try “How can I help the people I meet today?”
You get the drift…
If your story is disabling, you have to change your story.
To change your story, you must begin by changing your perspective of the story.
To change the perspective of your story, you must first change the questions you ask yourself, when alone and silent.
After all, history is just “his-story”. You decide how it reads. So if it is unproductive, just re-write it.