I often wonder, "Why do I always have to learn so many things the hard way?" What does that mean? For most of us, it means "I have to make a huge mistake before 'it gets my attention' and causes me to realize 'uh-oh! That was dumb!'" I find neither comfort nor delight in realizing that "the hard way" is the precise formula many, many others follow in "learning life's difficult lessons."

So, why do so many of us learn "the hard way"? Allow me to suggest some responses to that "why."

Reason # 1: we are humans, not God. As humans, we prefer falling prey to imagined deceit rather than learning from truth. As humans, we like to pretend we are god. As humans, we like to believe we are "the masters of our own fate" [when we are, commonly it is bad, not good!]. For those who prefer deception, for those who consider themselves god, for those who think they "know best" about most things, the only way to learn (and remember!) is by learning the "hard way"! Others' mistakes mean nothing! Our hard experiences mean everything!

Reason # 2: we remember what we live through and survive. It is almost like we have internal juvenile arguments with ourselves: "Is too! Is not! Is too! Is not!" The fact that someone we know already learned the "hard way" means nothing to most of us. "We" are different! That experience would not produce the same outcome and results in us! We are [take your pick] wiser, more alert, more gifted, more intelligent, more discriminating, have better judgment, etc., than "they"! Only when we repeat their failure do we "own" the consequence! What a crash when we finally realize we really are not different!

Reason # 3: some of our richest, most appreciated blessings rise from the ashes of our failures. It is true that "we do not know how to appreciate what we lost until we lose it." Learning the "hard way" teaches us to appreciate what we take for granted. In fact, blessings we consider curses suddenly become invaluable treasures. We know how to appreciate what we lost--if we get it back!

Reason # 4: learning "hard lessons" from horrible experiences equips us to (1) use those experiences to teach the few who will listen [if we are willing to share our failures] and (2) be an invaluable source of encouragement to those who need to rise above their mistakes.

The downsides of learning the "hard way": (1) the mistake may destroy us before we learn the lesson; (2) the education hurts others as well as ourselves; (3) it is a wasteful way to learn; and (4) it leaves God's wisdom and guidance out of our learning process.

Fortunately, the Christian belongs to the God who produces blessings from mistakes--even big ones! His biggest blessings are discovered in allowing Him to guide us away from the "hard way"! Unmade mistakes are invaluable!

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 15 February 2004

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