Loss and gain
No one likes to lose anything. People strive hard to win a simple game, although there is no material reward. People work hard to win a competition. Most of the time it is not the reward that is the goal, but just the ecstasy of being a winner. Students are led to study hard for an examination at the end of term. No prize is awarded for diligence. The aim is to enjoy the thrill of being adjudged the best.
Often it is not material gain that is at stake. Rather, it is honour. There is some mechanism in us which leads us to desire to be above everybody else. We crave for security in what we are and what we have. To be a person of value is to have more than others. It is to be honoured more than others. People do not want equality. They want to be the first and the best.
It is said that psychologists encounter a very crucial problem which did not exist in bygone days. They call this "the fear of missing out" syndrome. What this means is that some people are afraid that they are missing something because they do not possess certain things or have certain experiences. By the same token, some people are led to believe that they are at a tremendous disadvantage when they lose certain things. These things have become so much part and parcel of their world that they feel dehumanized when they lose them.
One of the fine qualities of the art of counselling is not to instruct people, not to proclaim great truths to them but to help them to find solutions for their problems or rather to help them to make sense of their lives. Often, a plethora of words is a hindrance to helping people to find comfort in an unpleasant situation.
The human mechanism has been created by God with the ability to accept life in all its challenges. Men and women have the capacity to find peace in whatever predicament they find themselves. What is needed is for counsellors to create the atmosphere, the kind of presence that facilitates healing. People who are deeply wounded need to know that they are not alone in their experiences. People before them have undergone trials of all sorts and they triumphed over them. Additionally, they want to know that somebody cares.
Prosperity is not an unmixed blessing. Nor is disaster an irreparable loss. Experience proves that people tend to bond together more strongly when they experience grief than when they indulge in pleasure. There is an inner pull towards others when they take stock of the fact that they are all fellow sufferers.
Life at best is not unlimited excitement. It leads us to reflect on our inner self and our purpose in life. When we experience joy we are not led to seek the deep meaning of life. It is when we are in distress, when we are crushed, that we are led to probe into the depths of our hearts and endeavour to make sense of our lives. This is why some of the greatest personalities in history have endured a deep crisis before they were led to embark on a radical transformation of life. Their experience of a sort of breakdown of their human foundations drove them to probe the deep mysteries of life.
Life is worth living. And blessed are those who find this. There is no painful and heart-wrenching experience in life which does not have a redeeming feature. To enter into the fullness of life we have to learn not merely to endure tragedy as a necessary evil but to embrace it as a challenge, a springboard for new life. Let us be assured that the resources are always available. We have only to call upon the One who has formed us, nurtured us, empowers us, and challenges us to pursue the course of our destiny.
Some years ago, I paid a visit to an elderly lady, who was confined to her bedroom. She was about 90 years old. Describing her life, she said to me: "I have lost everything. I have lost my sight; I cannot see anything. I have lost the use of my ears; I cannot hear anything. My memory is gone; I forget everything. I have lost the use of my legs; I cannot walk. The only thing left me is my mouth!" At that, she gave a loud burst of laughter: "Ha! Ha! Ha!" I joined her: "Ha! Ha! Ha!" And there were both of us laughing: "Ha! Ha! Ha!"
Of course, life is not a perpetual laughter. In the face of reality, laughter must stop at some time. But laughter, a sense of humour, can be a sort of therapy, helping to soften, to cushion and even to transform the harsh realities of life and lead people to the assurance that, in spite of everything, "It is good to be alive!"