Several years ago when I was going through a very difficult time, I posted a sign on my bathroom mirror that made all the difference in the world. It said:
I want what I paid for.
I had paid dearly in heartache and brokenness, and I was absolutely determined to use that pain to grow and become more the person I want to be.
I knew well from past experience that while healing does seem to come in its own time by grace, growing from the experience does not.
Growing, changing, become a better person requires my choice, commitment, and hard work.
The image of kintsugi
When I subsequently discovered the art of kintsugi, this absolute determination to grow out of the hard times was part of why I found this metaphor for living so powerful.
The kintsugi gold in the repairs of broken objects doesn't come along with the pot just sitting there. It requires hard (often uncomfortable) work in both the re-assembly and the addition of the gold, and it requires a dedication of the time involved in the lengthy process of transformation.
That's what my little sign was reminding me of.
Daily nurturing the gold
Every time I brushed my teeth, dried my hair, washed my hands, or did any of the other repeated tasks of the day in front of the that mirror, I was reminded that I wanted the growth I had paid for in heartache.
I was reminded over and over again when the going got tough of the longing deep in my soul to turn the circumstances of my heart break into something good.
And it daily sparked my re-commitment to doing whatever it took to do what I could to prepare myself for healing and to nurture growth.
It renewed my absolute determination to use my pain as fuel for creating a better me.
It prompted me to continually explore questions like:
- Who do I want to become? How can this situation help me become that?
- What can I learn about myself or others from this situation?
- What skills can I develop coming out of this situation that would serve me in the future? (e.g., better communication skills)
- What character traits do I want to strengthen as a result of this experience? (e.g., courage or resilience)
- What (if anything) do I wish that I had done differently? How can I choose actions now based on that knowledge to create a better future?
- What relationships have helped me through this time? How can I be that kind of person to others who are hurting in the future?
- What challenges am I facing in this moment that are opportunities to practice the changes I am trying to make?
- How has this situation already changed me? Are those changes I like? If so, how do I nurture them? If not, how can I shift them in healthier directions?
- What am I doing today to create the growth that I long for?
And wrestling with those questions day after day after day kept me demanding the gold I had paid for and doing what I could to nurture it into existence.
Choosing how over why
As I've said many times before, I don't necessarily believe that the broken times in our lives come along in order to make us grow. Maybe they do sometimes; maybe sometimes things just happen.
I don't know enough to know the why most of the time, so focusing on why holds me back.
What I can know is how I want to use the experience. I have a choice about what I do with the pain. I can choose how I want to grow.
When my heart has been broken, the pain and grief are already a part of my experience. If I have to feel those anyway, I might as well use them for growth regardless of any why or lack of a why that might be involved.
What will you demand?
The next time that you face brokenness in your life—whether from a broken heart, broken dreams, a broken body, broken relationships, or a heart-breaking loss—you will be faced with the choice of what to do with that pain.
Will you choose to wait passively for things to get better from outside yourself? Or will you use that pain as fuel in creating a better life and a better self from the pieces?
You've paid the price in pain and grief. Why not demand from yourself the hard work necessary to get every bit of gold you paid for?
In my experience with my little note on my mirror, an absolute determination to win that gold has made all the difference in the world. The growth hasn't always looked exactly like I thought it would, but it has redeemed the pain by created more positive change than I ever would have imagined possible.
What will you choose?
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