Attitude Adjustment

Once upon a time there was a farmer’s donkey that fell down a well. The donkey brayed piteously while the farmer decided what to do. He finally decided it wasn’t worth the effort to rescue the donkey because the animal was old, and the well needed to be covered up anyway. He invited his neighbors to bring their shovels so they could help him fill the well with dirt. To begin with the donkey cried horribly as dirt rained down on him, but soon he grew quiet. After more shovels of dirt, the farmer finally looked down the well to see if perhaps the donkey was dead. He was astonished at what he saw.

With every shovel of dirt that hit his back, the donkey was doing something amazing. He would shake off the dirt and take a step up. As the farmer’s neighbors continued to shovel dirt, the donkey would shake it off and take another step up until finally it stepped over the edge of the well and happily trotted away.

It might have been easy for the donkey to see himself as a victim and simply give in to being buried alive. Or he could have gotten out of the well one step up at a time and called himself a survivor. But the fable says he trotted away happily. That’s a serious attitude adjustment! And it’s the attitude of a thriver – a person who is able to learn from the dirt that life dumps on them, and to see the gift in the pain. C S Lewis writes about that in his book The Problem of Pain. He refers to it as the complex good: God is good, but evil exists. God exploits evil for His redemptive purpose and thereby produces a complex good. Seeing the gift in the pain is a complex good.

That was the task before the women at the Lighthouse as they created mixed media collages of “getting out of the pit.” As participants in a faith-based substance abuse recovery program, they are well aware of the dirt life has dumped on them, and of the dirt they’ve dumped on themselves. They’ve at work adjusting their attitudes, and taking one step up at a time in the process of recovery. Many haven’t stepped over the edge of the pit yet, but we’re already talking about the lessons they’ve learned from their suffering “in the pit” and giving voice to the possible gifts in their pain. They are learning to look for the complex good in their circumstances. That’s an attitude adjustment that makes all the difference.

Have you ever felt dumped on like the donkey? Have you ever climbed out of a pit one step at a time…and trotted away happily? Did happiness come later? How did you go about an attitude adjustment? Who helped you with that? If you were to create a collage of getting out of the pit, what would it look like? What’s a gift you’ve received from a painful experience?

Thanks for the good comments and tender stories you share!

 

 

 

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