Blessings in disguise are those events and circumstances both major and minor that show up in the form of challenges, disappointments, or obstacles that have a hidden lesson or opportunity buried in them.
There are three categories of Blessings in Disguise that come to mind.
Loss – While painful, the experience of loss can teach you about what is truly important. Loss can help you recognize the value of what has been lost as well as the value of what you are left with. It is sometimes through the loss of a relationship, possession, or circumstance that you learn to appreciate those things you normally take for granted. Something as simple for example as the breath…You don’t usually think about the value of being able to breathe effortlessly until you catch a cold. Don’t get me wrong. The cold is not the blessing. It is your awareness of the joy of breathing freely, without obstacle or effort, that is the blessing.
I’ve learned from experience that if you embrace loss and open to it instead of resisting it, loss can take you deeper into your heart. I was 30 years old when my mother died. Losing her was painful and I missed her terribly for many years. But over time, missing her morphed into beautiful, wonderful memories of her that continue to fill my heart with great joy. I do wish at times that she was still with me physically, but blessedly I have discovered that she is always with me in my heart. As the years go by I love her more than ever and for this I am grateful.
Loss can also open you to the blessing of possibility, as it did for three war veterans; one Vietnam war veteran; one veteran of the Iraq war; and one veteran of the Afghanistan war. Two of the veterans lost both their legs in combat, and one lost one of his legs. In spite of their significant loss, in April 2010 the three of them together successfully climbed 19,336 feet to the highest peak of Mt. Kilimanjaro in Kenya. To paraphrase them, no matter what loss you have experienced, you can still accept challenge, which opens you to the blessing of possibility.
Betrayal – Whenever I have felt betrayed, and blessedly it has not been often, it has given me the opportunity to practice forgiveness – not easy. Forgiveness is a powerful practice that strengthens you and frees you from the past, enabling you to get on with your life joyfully. It allows you to move beyond the hurt of betrayal. I have been lied to, cheated on, and mistreated by people I love, trust, and feel close to. It is always a surprise when it happens and it always hurts. Ironically, each time I experience a betrayal it strengthens my ability to trust my own instincts, intuitions, and perceptions. It reminds me that I am strong even in my vulnerability. Betrayal has always taught me to be true to myself – a lesson my father frequently taught. He loved to quote Polonius’s advice to his son – “…and above all else to thine own self be true.” Betrayal invites you into your own heart and into forgiveness of yourself and others. The blessing of betrayal can set you free.
Disillusionment – To be disillusioned is very difficult because it challenges your belief system. It is the recognition that all is not as it seems. At first this can be disorienting and can result in a temporary state of anxiety and-or depression. But if you go deeper, beyond the anxiety and depression, you can realize its gifts. Consider this: The characters in The Wizard of Oz invested extraordinary powers in an unknown, unseen source. They believed that they were powerless to manifest their deepest desires without those desires being gifted to them by Oz. To their amazement, once they discovered that the Wizard of Oz was a figment of their imagination, they realized they already possessed what they had been seeking outside themselves. The gift of disillusionment brought clarity and empowerment to the Tin Man by revealing to him that he already had a heart; to the Scarecrow by showing him that he already had a brain; and to the Cowardly Lion by showing him that he already had courage. The gift of disillusionment can help you see that you already are who you are trying to become – you just need to believe it to see it. Disillusionment can help you believe in your own gifts and power.
So when you encounter loss, betrayal, or disillusionment, consider that they may actually be blessings in disguise. When you are in the midst of any of these experiences, it’s hard to perceive them as blessings – much less express gratitude for the gifts they bring.
- Just try to remember, through loss you can realize that the person who leaves you lives on in your heart. The cherished object you lose can teach you the valuable lesson of letting go or of non-attachment. You can make room for something new. The loss of a physical ability, financial stability, or even your home can teach you that the world has not come to an end and that you have the inner resources and resilience to bounce back to meet the challenge you face.
- Through betrayal you can move from trusting others to trusting yourself. As painful as betrayal can be it can teach you the power of forgiveness and the joy of freedom.
- Through disillusionment you are able to see with more clarity. You can see reality as it is not as you want it to be. In The Wizard of Oz, disillusionment taught the Tin Man, Cowardly Lion, and Scarecrow to believe in themselves – they already had everything they needed.
The Universe in its infinite wisdom has a way of providing you with opportunities for soul growth through life lessons. Every day it provides you with opportunities to become more loving, patient, and kind, and to rid yourself of anger, jealousy, and negativity. Sometimes, because you may be slow to get the message, the lesson may show up over and over again until you get the point, like in the movie Ground Hog Day.
It may take years for you to figure out what the lesson in the hardship is much less what it has to offer. But even if the lesson eludes you, you still want to look for it. You may not choose the hardships you experience. But the way you engage hardship or challenge is always a matter of choice.
If you’re not quite ready to say “Thank You” for the hidden blessings to be found in loss, betrayal, or disillusionment maybe you can start with “Thank you, I think.”