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When one door closes, another opens

11th February 2019

A person who says this is undoubtedly well-meaning, with the aim to give encouragement to a sad or disappointed friend or family member. Along the same lines people may say, ‘always look on the bright side’, ‘there’s plenty of fish in the sea’ or ‘when life gives you lemons, make lemonade’ (I actually quite like that one!). However such sayings can signify a lack of real empathy.

In life doors will be closed to us when we move home, change schools, don’t get the exam grades or job we hoped for, suffer from an illness or a relationship fails. Such changes can come unexpectedly and often outside our control, so that even the best laid plans are no longer achievable. Sadness is appropriate at such times and a wise friend will know how to be alongside us and offer a comforting shoulder to express those appropriate feelings.

Arguably sadness is the taboo emotion of our times in which we are summoned to ‘Be happy’ and pressured to post pictures of the perfect happy life on Instagram, which is deeply unhuman and inhumane. Even funerals are now ‘celebrations’ of life rather than a place for the bereaved to mourn their real loss. Yet loss of different kinds is a part of the human experience and one that needs acknowledging before any new beginnings can emerge or open doors passed through.

For Christians the joy of the resurrection is not a possibility before the experience and desolation of Good Friday. Then in Buddhism, acknowledgement of suffering in life is a necessary precursor to enlightenment.

Whilst the positive thinking of the many self-help books is not without merit, many omit to acknowledge that life sometimes really is rather sad and that we do often make a ‘hash’ of things. Only then can we see that the way through is not through positive assertions and aphorisms but through compassionate acknowledgement of our own and other people’s suffering.

Mrs Crossley
Head of Religious Studies