Donald Miller is best-selling author (Blue Like Jazz) and founder of Storyline, an organization that helps people gain focus, clarity, inspiration and a deep sense of meaning in life.
Viktor Frankl says when we find something redemptive about our suffering it ceases to be suffering. And he’s absolutely right.
The idea behind finding a redemptive perspective toward our suffering isn’t about becoming an optimist. In fact, it’s not about turning negative life events into something positive at all. There are very real tragedies that strike us, and there is no reason not to call them what they are: tragedies.
Finding a redemptive perspective, though, is simply about creating two lists rather than one.
Normally when something hard happens we start a running mental list of all the negative consequences. And that’s fine and normal. Finding a redemptive perspective, however, is about creating a second list, a list of the benefits of a given tragedy. And there are always benefits.
For instance, if I lose my job my mind immediately starts counting the costs. I won’t be able to make the mortgage, I’ll be embarrassed in front of my friends and family, I’ll come off as needy. That’s a real list and it really hurts. But alongside that, I can also make a positive list: I hated my job but was too afraid to quit so being fired forced me to look for something better, and I also can use this time to adjust my budget so I make better financial decisions in the future.
If you take each of the hard things that have happened to you and make two lists rather than one, I promise your perspective on life will change. This is what it means to find a redemptive perspective on the hard things that happen in life.
Ready to change your perspective? Simply write down the five hardest things that have ever happened to you, and make two lists. You’ll find, over time, your focus shifts from the negative to the positive and some people, myself included, now claim what I used to see as tragedies as honest gifts from God. Still painful, but redeemed.
For me, this single act of reflection was transformative. In fact I’d say it’s one of the most healing exercises I’ve done.
On a personal note, Storyline has been life changing for my husband and I. Through their conferences, book, and website (http://mysubplot.com/), their process has played a crucial role in my families transition from Charlotte, NC to Nashville, TN in 2012. I highly recommend the work that they are doing. —Kristy