Choosing to Become Bitter or Better
“Refined by fire” is an idea I have talked a lot about. I identify with it so much that I decided to use it as my column title. I have given examples of my refinement, but I want to delve deeper into the concept itself by giving a couple examples of possible outcomes.
Fire will always come, and we can respond to it in one of two ways. Submit to it and become refined, or resist it and get burned. Some things are easier to immediately submit to than others. I find that I do a better job of submitting if I’m prepared for it or have experienced something similar in the past. However, when something catches me off guard, I tend to be more resistant.
The best example I have of immediate submission is my spinal fusion surgery at age 9. Even though I was a young child, I was able to handle that adversity well, given that I had my entire life up to that point to prepare for it. Therefore, it helped change me into the person I am today. I still consider it the best experience of my life from a personal growth perspective. If I had been bitter for a time, the outcome might not have been as positive — at least, not as quickly.
A time I didn’t handle adversity so well happened recently, only a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, I had to miss out on a long-dreamed-about family vacation that I desperately wanted to go on. While this is not necessarily uncommon, this time it hit me extra hard.
It was a special Disney cruise, and my entire immediate family was going. I struggled with a profound sense of hopelessness, which I let grow into anger and bitterness, even in the months leading up to the trip. Not only did the fire burn, but I also was stoking it with my negative reaction.
I finally made a conscious decision to choose between becoming bitter or better. And with help from the Lord (and my wise grandmother), I submitted to the fire by accepting it as an unchangeable reality. It was then that this challenge started to refine me. I think I have now made much progress in conquering the getting-left-out-of-trips frustration.
Life will often throw you fireballs, and the temptation to react with anger and bitterness is inevitable. But lately, I have been intentional about realizing I’m in a trial, accepting it for what it is, and trying to figure out how I can learn from it. I have a sign in my room of the well-known Serenity Prayer: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” I can’t control everything that happens to me, but I can control my reaction. When the fires come, I decide whether to become bitter or better.
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