The young man was at the end of his rope.
Seeing no way out, he dropped to his knees in prayer.
“Lord, I can’t go on,” he said. “I have too heavy a cross to bear”
The Lord replied. “My son, if you can’t bear its weight, just place your cross inside this
room. Then open another door and pick any cross you wish.”
The young man was filled with relief. “Thank you, Lord,” he sighed, and he did as he was
As he looked around the room he saw many crosses; some so large the tops were not visible.
Then he spotted a tiny cross leaning against a far wall.”
“I’d like that one, Lord,” he whispered.
And the Lord replied, “My son, that’s the one you brought in.”
22 PERCEPTION VERSUS TRUTH
It is not the conditions of our lives that bring us suffering, it is how we think about them.
As the mystical poet William Blake put it:
“…in your own Bosom you bear your Heaven
And Earth & all you behold; tho’ it appears Without, it is Within,
In your Imagination, of which this World of Mortality is but a Shadow.”
Pain is inevitable. We all experience it at different times during our lives. Suf- fering, on the other hand, is a choice. With every negative experience, we can accept it as an opportunity to learn or we can bear it as a heavy cross. Rather than focusing on fear, jealousy, judgment or blame, we can instead reconsider our perceptions and embark on the journey to discover how a difficult experi- ence can actually benefit us.
Exercise for Reframing Your Problems
Identify a problem that is troubling you. Perhaps it is the reason you are reading this book. Rather than defining it as a symptom, disorder, or illness, search for its purpose, that is, how it serves you by solving a larger life dilemma. Place it in a new context, a room filled with larger crosses, until it takes on a different significance. Reframe your problem, now giving it a positive connotation. The exercise is meant to help you discern assumptions from reality.
An eating disorder can be reframed as a hunger strike against demanding par- ents, money problems can be redefined as an act of loyalty to parents who felt anyone who had money was morally questionable, a husband’s affair can be considered a misguided attempt to reclaim lost parts of himself, or as an attempt to get the attention of a distracted partner.
By positively reframing your problems, you recast your role from helpless victim to creator of your own circumstances. You’ve chosen your problem as a solution to another issue and you can now search for better solutions. You are completely accountable for your thoughts and actions.
The anorexic girl doesn’t have to starve herself to death to win with her par- ents, there are other choices with less severe consequences; the husband, while acknowledging he may have betrayed an agreement, can find more successful ways to rediscover the lost elements of his life. By shifting the definition of the problem, regardless of its complexity, possibilities and choices will open up that do not have unwanted consequences.