Learning From Experience

Thus says the Lord of hosts: Reflect on your experience!   Haggai 1:7

10 5 17 with word overlayJocelyn has a tendency to replay negative experiences over and over again. Out of the blue, she’ll bring up a bad memory from years ago. She won’t just cry about it; she’ll downright sob. It breaks my heart that she puts herself in these tailspins, for no apparent reason.

I’ve been trying to teach her that she can have power over her thoughts. I explain that when a painful memory pops into her head, she can choose to focus on it, or push it aside.

I know that trying NOT to think about something is actually thinking about it. So I help her replace the thought: together we remember good things that she can think about instead. This technique always works with my boys. Unfortunately, it only works half the time with Jocelyn.

But just the other morning, by complete accident, Jocelyn gave me a whole new approach that I think is the answer to her problem. 

As Jocelyn was eating breakfast before school, the microwave kept beeping, letting us know my bone broth was warmed and ready. I was busy packing her lunch box and water bottle into her backpack, and didn’t get to the microwave for a bit. After about the fifth beep, Jocelyn said, “I want to help you. But remember that time I tried to get your bone broth out of the microwave and I burned myself? That really hurt.” She then started to get upset thinking about how much pain that burn had caused.

Although she was focusing on the second half of her comment, the first half kept replaying in my mind. It finally hit me why: she had just given me the tactic I had been searching for for years.

“Jocelyn, you’re a genius!” I exclaimed. “You used a bad memory to help you learn something good. You wanted to help me, but you remembered what happened last time, and you didn’t want to repeat that. You are so smart!”

In the short time I spoke, she went from being on the verge of tears, to beaming with pride. Giving her bad memory a good purpose reframed it, and put it in its place. If she ever digs it up again, she’ll know, like a coin, that there are two sides to that memory. She can then flip it to see the good.

We’ve all made mistakes, and lived through big issues and tragedies. Life is hard, and it always will be. But if we can look on the flip side of our difficult memories, and learn from them, we give them purpose. Each time we do, that experience becomes a coin in our wisdom treasure chest. The more coins we collect, the richer in wisdom we become.

Questions For Reflection:

     * Do I ever rehash old mistakes and issues, reliving the bad feelings they stir up?

     * Have I learned the lessons those memories carry in their hands?

     * Can I now reframe those memories and only reflect on the positive they’ve brought to my life?

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