Dear Suzie, Four months ago, I found out that my husband cheated. This one selfish act destroyed my entire belief system. I used to be a very positive person. I used to believe the glass is always half-full, and that something good always comes out of every disappointment. Now, I don’t feel that way. It’s robbed me of my faith, my trust, my belief in people. Now, I think it’s every man for himself, and it’s a dog-eat-dog world. I have become bitter, cynical, and angry at the world. I am devastated at how much this has changed me into a person I don’t like, and I fear I can never change back. Can a person ever learn to trust again after something as painful as this happens to them?
Before I answer your question, I’d like to share a story. This story takes place in the late seventies on a farm in communist Russia, during the time when the Cold War between the United States and Russia was at its peak. A reporter from the West had gone undercover to interview ordinary Russians in an effort to understand how they truly felt about Communism. During his travels, he met a Russian dairy farmer, and asked him the following questions:
“Sir,” said the journalist to the farmer, “what do you think of Communism and the idea of sharing everything you have with your neighbors?”
The farmer replied, “I think it’s a very good idea. No one should have more than another; everyone should be equal and the same.”
Then the reporter asked a follow-up question: “So, if you had two cars, you would give one to your neighbor?”
The farmer replied, “Yes, I would.”
“And if you had to two houses, you would give your neighbor one house?”
“Yes,” said the farmer, “I certainly would!”
“And if you had two cows,” continued the reporter, “Would you give one to your neighbor?”
“No way!” replied the farmer indignantly.
“But why not?” asked the reporter.
“Because I have two cows!” said the farmer.
What's the point of the story?
Well, here it is: It’s much easier to agree with a philosophy as long as it’s not affecting you personally. However, once it becomes personal, it’s a different kettle of fish. You mentioned in your email that you were always a positive person, and you believed that something good comes out of every disappointment. But that was before you had to face the ultimate disappointment, and before you found yourself wallowing in the depths of the painful emotions unleashed by infidelity. Just like the Russian farmer, now that reality is facing you, you must ask yourself, “Do you truly believe that something good comes from every disappointment? Or, once something affects you personally, do you exclude yourself from the message?”
There's a difference between believing in a principle and practicing the principles you believe in.
I’ve often noticed that life has a way of providing opportunities for us to practice what we say we believe. This could be one of those opportunities for you. In my opinion, there are two ways to look at this situation: (1) It’s either an example of what you believe in (every disappointment is for a good); or (2) It’s an exception to what you believe in. Whichever you believe, you’ll find plenty of evidence to support it.
Those who see themselves as singled out or targeted whenever injustice, unfairness, setbacks, dishonesty, betrayals, disloyalty, loss, disillusionment, and any form of disaster happens to them… can find plenty of reasons why certain principles failed to work in their cases.
However, there’s another way to look at this situation.
What if… your principles haven’t failed you?
What if… you’re actually being given the example that proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that something good always comes out of every disappointment?
Wouldn’t that be something worth learning? Think about it. How can you really know what you truly believe in, until you are given a chance to experience it?
It seems to me that not only is your marriage being tested, but so are your core values. Life is like that undercover reporter, asking you, “Now that this is personal, what do you really believe?”
How will you answer this question? Now that the disappointment is in your lap, do you believe that something good will come of it? If you do, then you, my friend, are navigating by faith and not by fear. It might lighten your heart to know you’re in very good company.
Here are some famous examples of others who navigated by faith and not by fear:
- Mother Teresa: They said what she did with the poor could never be done. (They were wrong.)
- Gandhi: They said his belief in peace could never bring progress to India. (They were wrong.)
- Rev. Martin Luther King: They said his dream would never come to pass. (They were wrong.)
- Nelson Mandela: They said he couldn’t unite South Africa. (They were wrong.)
- Henry Ford: They said he would never build a car that every American could afford. (They were wrong.)
Now, the ball is in your court.
Are you really a positive thinker or are you a positive pretender? Do you navigate by faith or by fear? Do you believe that love wins or that it fails?
Be honest with yourself. Why? Because it’s in times of crisis that our true values and core beliefs are revealed.
This is your moment.
You decide by what principles you’ll live by. If you choose to exclude yourself from the very same message you used to preach to others, then you’ve made yourself into a hypocrite. And I know that’s not what you want.
So ask yourself this question: What if this experience was brought into your life as the perfect opportunity to help you practice what you believe? What if, as a result of putting your money where your mouth is, you were actually to learn firsthand the beautiful truth that from
every disappointment something good comes? Wouldn’t that be a wonderful piece of knowledge to have? What a sense of security it would give you!
Never again would your foundations be so rattled, because you would know beyond the shadow of a doubt (not just believe) that every disappointment is merely a precondition to something good.
Remember: It’s not the principles you believe in that matter; it’s the ones you practice that do.
In my opinion, this opportunity was created for you to practice the principles that you believe in, and in doing so, to learn that your belief is absolute truth.
So, here’s my advice:
Don’t exclude yourself from your own message.
Live by what you trust, and you will indeed discover (firsthand) that every single negative can lead to a positive.
Until we speak again…
Remember… Love Wins!