Archive | October, 2014

Why We Won’t Trade Our Problems

12 Oct

problems-1All right, do me a favor.  Imagine this.

You’re sitting at a long table surrounded by a crowd of people.  You’ve got folks on your right and folks on your left.  A booming voice calls, “All right, guys, dump ‘em out — one, two, three!”  And all at once, you and your comrades are each expected to dump every single one of your problems out in front of you.  It’s as if you are children on Halloween with a pillowcase full of candy, unpacking all your collected sugary goods.

Moments later, once everyone has done that, the aforementioned booming voice then cries out, “Okay.  Now that it’s all out — trade.”

You stop.  You look at the person next to you.  No one moves.  Everyone around the table stares, reticent to follow the instructions.  Defensively, protectively, a person at the end of the table begins to re-collect all of her problems, stuffing them back to where they came from; the person next to her does the same, and pretty soon everyone follows suit.  Sure, the booming voice is perplexed, but you’re not.  You have no interest giving up your own problems and taking on someone else’s.


But, why is this?  Why are we unwilling to trade our problems?  Why would each of those people around that table clutch onto them defensively as they walked away, protective and possessive?  After all, aren’t problems something we want to give up, say goodbye to, dump onto someone else’s shoulders so we are burden-free?

It’s because we choose our problems, just like we choose the circumstances into the life that we’re born; just like we choose our parents, our struggles, our talents, our obstacles.  A problem can come in the form of a repeated bad habit, a complication with finances, complications with a particular gender, complications with health and chronic conditions — the list is endless.  But each problem is meant to teach us a lesson, is meant to bring great learning and profundity through the superficial hardship and pain.  Iyanla Vanzant often says:  “Growth requires learning from painful experiences by recognizing the role we have played.”  When we imagine giving up our problems, our defensiveness of them arises from a knowing that we will sacrifice growth.  When we envisage flippantly exchanging them with someone else, we immediately sense we are jeopardizing a dire life lesson intended for us specifically in this life, in this incarnation.

When we examine problems through the lens of advancement and expansion, we see that they are actually our friends, they are deeply personal teachers that are with us to serve an essential function to add to our soul’s growth.  We chose them; they are ours.  And when we embrace that, and even more so, imagine parting ways with them at that giant banquet table, we come into a new experience of really owning our problems and the role they play.