I Cannot Believe in Thriving Anymore. There is Too Much Pain and Suffering in the world.



The autumn leaves swirl around us as we step in sync through doors into a time and space that know no boundaries of love.   As we enter the room, where a tiny casket lay before us, the air is thick and sweet with sacred beauty.  Inexplicable, vulnerable beauty.

My heart is broken, and I am strangely grateful for the brokenness . . . it is the reminder of how gloriously sanctified we really all are because of our experiences.  A reminder that we must be present.  That we are connected.  We do grieve together.  And we experience joy together.  Even if not in the same places at the same times, we can share in another’s experience with reverence.

This is glory.  Meeting the human soul in such a time as this is a gift to never be traded.

She stands.  She cries.  She pours her heart over her baby girl.  The light is soft around her, and I am standing quietly behind her.  As sisters, she and I have been together and apart through our lives.  We did not always see eye to eye.  We saw the ups and downs of life.  We both desire to find the “more” of life. 

Today, I really knew her.

Her baby is gone, but somehow we feel her spirit there.  She is a tiny, beautiful piece of heaven.  Her hands are gorgeous.  Her feet are perfect.

Can someone so tiny and unknown to our world become known? I believe she can and she will. We already see it.  We see the outpouring of love, understanding, tears, care, giving.  Viola Annmarie is still a world changer.  Just when you think your world can’t possibly change more, and you can’t possibly heal more in your own life, this world changer shows up and challenges that assumption. Can such a thing as this lead to thriving?  It is hard to see.

Though life must go on in times of pain, and tasks are there to be done, we move between task and our emotions, constantly working toward wholeness.  In these dark times, I struggle with the idea of my own study of positive psychology and the pursuit of this whole well being, and whether it is just an ideal that can never really be attained.  How can this world, so full of pain, hatred, sickness, and death, be changed?  What are we really doing that matters when people are still suffering?

In my own discouragement, I contemplate the definition of positive psychology. 

“Positive Psychology is the scientific study of the strengths and virtues that enable individuals and communities to thrive. The field is founded on the belief that people want to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives, to cultivate what is best within themselves, and to enhance their experiences of love, work, and play.” (www.positivepsychology.org)

The study of strengths and virtues . . . enable to thrive . . . lead meaningful and fulfilling lives . . . cultivate what is best within . . .enhance their experiences of love . . .

 How can Viola’s death, or the world’s current events highlighting murder, protesting, prejudice, violence, Hollywood glamour, death, suffering, depression . . . lead to thriving?  How?  Where do we fit in?  As businesses, leaders, and individuals, where is our work?  Where are we called to go?  What are we pursuing?

Let’s go back to the definition.  Let’s decide how to change the world.

The study of strengths and virtues . . . enable to thrive . . . lead meaningful and fulfilling lives . . . cultivate what is best within . . . enhance their experiences of love . . .

 If we are to do something about the fears and failures of the world, this definition suggests there are ways to do it by shifting our mindset and possibly finding more of what is working.  Find where people are thriving.  Focus on where people feel whole—where something is just “different” about them.  Then, discover the methods and practices of how they get there.

One way this can be done is to look at positive deviance:

“Since its inception in nutrition research in the 1970s, the PD approach has been used extensively by researchers and evaluators in development. It is a strength-based approach based around five core principles: first, that communities possess the solutions and expertise to best address their own problems; second, that these communities are self-organizing entities with sufficient human resources and assets to derive solutions to communal problems, third, that communities possess a ‘collective intelligence’, equally distributed through the community, which the PD approach seeks to foster and draw out; fourth, that the foundation of any PD approach rests on sustainability and the act of enabling a community to discover solutions to their own problems through the study of local ‘positive deviants’, and five, that behavior change is best achieved through practice and the act of ‘doing’.”  (http://betterevaluation.org/plan/approach/positive_deviance)

 This suggests that we are all superheroes.  That it is possible to change and thrive despite our circumstances.  In our efforts to find the people who will save us, lead us, or change us, there is something more to be seen.   We have a responsibility.  The way to make it work is to collectively decide we want it to change.   We have to decide we are all in, discover what we are doing that leads us to thriving from the inside-out, then decide we are going to do something about it . . .”that behavior change is best achieved through practice and the act of ‘doing’.”

My struggle is not done as I experience this pain.  I relish in the depth of the questions.  And positive psychology takes on greater meaning, relevance, and importance through this pain.  This experience reminds me again of our connection to one another, and my responsibility as a leader, community member, parent, and individual, that connection and purpose leads to meaningful and fulfilling lives.  Loving someone and being present with him or her in a time of pain, fully accepting it at that time is wholeness.  Thriving is being whole in all of it.  I cannot be afraid of it.  I have known pain myself.  I have tasted its bitterness. 

While I can execute tasks with vigor and contribute to results at the bottom line, I am most proud of awakening my soul enough to love people within the productivity.

It is the experience of life that has taught me to truly love.  And it is the sadness and pain as equal as the joy that I hold dearly so that I don’t lose that gift.  So, I hope I am never afraid of you—your courage, your pain, your sadness and your celebrations.  I hope that we have the opportunity to collectively decide we want to thrive.


Leadership Lesson & Dream Builder:

When our faith is challenged to the core, we dig deep to find answers.  We cannot understand the sacred growth from our grief, so for now, it is simply a sacred space, suspended in Grace, where we recognize our journeys are inevitably intertwined.  Close together or far apart, our bond is strong and our Spirits unite.  So, for now, in the moment, we rest in knowing we have one another.  We cry with those who cry.  We laugh with those who laugh.  Anger, pain, joy, doubt, courage.  Love is all of it.


Dedicated to Viola Annmarie in honor of my sister : Thank you for allowing us the gracious gift to stand with you as you said goodbye to your beautiful baby girl.