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With winter’s dark stay-inside days, I’ve been reading feel-good books and watching Christmas movies.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with escaping into once-upon-a-time and what-if moments.  That’s part of self-care.  Besides, it’s the rare book or movie that doesn’t have some insight tucked inside the story.  That happened with Richard Paul Evans’ Finding Noel when several quotes caught my attention.   “Oftentimes the greatest hurts of our lives come from running from the smaller ones.”  and “Usually life’s greatest gifts come wrapped in adversity.”

      How true.  Most of us are really good at avoiding something we don’t want to face.  That’s called denial.  We can hang on to a well-entrenched resentment in spite of the fact that everyone would profit from addressing the issue before it has a chance to balloon. Many of us grew up in families that avoided difficult subjects and rarely talked about feelings.  If there was anger and abuse, we learned to avoid conflict,  even when avoidance just made matters worse. Besides,  when we find ourselves enmeshed in difficult situations and family drama, avoiding further complications by bringing up past hurts seems to make sense in that moment. 

    However, assumptions make an ass out of you and me, while expectations become resentments waiting to happen.  It’s so easy to assume we have inadequate information when we may have only heard a fragment of what was said.  And what about the times when a comment or incident triggers a negative response causing us to stop listening or interpret the other’s action or remark in a specific way?  Or we act on incomplete information setting a whole spiral of miscommunication into being?   Sometimes the greatest hurts come from avoiding the smaller ones.

      I agree  that “usually, life’s greatest gifts come wrapped in adversity.”   It wasn’t until my father died that I developed a warm, loving relationship with my mother.  Our family addictions motivated us to seek help from the12 step program.   Health concerns motivated us to eat better and exercise more.  Having family caught up in the justice system not only made us less judgmental and more accepting, but it also taught us to look for the best in others, recognizing that we are all more than the worst thing we’ve ever done. 

       All of this brings us back to gratitude.  We all have far more choices in how to respond to situations than we realize.  Yes, life is what happens when we aren’t paying attention, but once we get jarred awake, we get to choose how to respond.  We can choose to be grateful for the ways life challenges help us grow.  We can choose to look for the positives that are hidden in the negatives.  We can choose to be thankful for the many ways adversity brings us closer to others.   

      As we move into the new year, let’s try to remember that “Often times the greatest hurts of our lives come from running from the smaller ones.”  and “Usually life’s greatest gifts come wrapped in adversity.”   The Apostle Paul put it this way, “In all things, give thanks.”

Joyce Shutt is the author of Steps to Hope and is a veteran 12 stepper

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