Remember your senior year of high school? The thrilling experiences of Class Day, graduation photos, prom, cap and gown pick-ups, and ultimately walking across the stage are some of the biggest highs of every young person’s life.
College graduation was a level up, too! It was the culmination of an even greater round of adjustments that included on-campus assimilation, making new friends, frat life (for some), hard work, late night cram sessions, falling down and getting back up, and other “life moments” that concluded in the joy of walking across that stage.
For me, my high school graduation was a major highlight. Not only did I graduate Valedictorian of my class, I was also voted by my classmates as Class Speaker—both tremendous honors. I gave the final charge to my classmates in an auditorium packed with students, families, friends and educators; a moment I will never forget. But the real, silent testimony was not in the speech nor achieving a high GPA—it was in trusting and managing through a rough process to get there. I did my best to respond to each challenge, test, tragedy, obstacle, and storm with perseverance, focus and thoughtful intention…and sometimes with tears. Getting to the “next level” meant that I had to effectively manage through the hard times at the current level.
It has to be tough being a high school or college senior in 2020. The pomp and circumstance many of us enjoyed will be celebrated with far less fanfare than anyone could have ever imagined. Families are scrambling to find creative ways to make the occasion special, and I commend all of the students who are faithfully continuing with their studies to completion in spite of the situation. Unfortunately, it’s a reality check that everything we work towards may not come together in a pretty package as planned but may instead be delivered in a battle-ridden box of disappointments.
In life, these disappointments can come in many forms. Some of us make financial investments in our personal portfolio or business only to see the value grow modestly, remain stagnant or plummet altogether. Others invest time and treasure into building a desired relationship only to see it go nowhere. Or, we work hard for a company and one day get laid off or dismissed without even a thank you note or fond farewell.
Life happens. And the truth is, life is not fair.
There will always be situations we cannot control. But in the midst of those situations, there is always one thing that we can control and that is our response.
Crisis is inevitable if you live long enough. But what I have found to be true based on history is that those who respond with hope and intentionality to crisis—any crisis—tend to be the ones who are elevated on a higher stage when the crisis is over.
I draw inspiration from Biblical examples of triumph over crisis: Joseph, Esther and Daniel (check out their stories). Of course, there are numerous modern-era examples of elevation after crisis: Oprah Winfrey rose above personal trauma and abuse to become one of the most notable names in the world, Bill Gates’ first business flopped horribly before he created Microsoft, Bethany Hamilton had her arm bitten off by a shark and still returned to professional surfing, and Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison before re-emerging to become the president of South Africa!
Whether you are a high school or college senior, unemployed or furloughed, an overworked “frontline employee,” or even if you’re dealing with a personal separation of a loved one, remember that while you may not control the reality, you are always in control of your response.
Here’s a little encouragement for you as you choose your response to crisis today:
- Acknowledge the fact that you are in a crisis. Don’t live in denial.
- Take comfort in knowing there is always an expiration date to crisis.
- Mourn if you have to…it’s healthy and cathartic to confront and deal with your emotions. Bottling your feelings poisons your heart and leads to rancid bitterness, which in turn could result in negative actions.
- Find the blessing in your situation because it could always be worse.
- Be still if you have to be still. Rest if you must. Just hold on to your faith, hope and focus.
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