“You cannot prevent the birds of sorrow from flying over your head, but you can prevent them from building nests in your hair.” ~ Chinese proverb …
In my life, I have felt sorrow–I have bathed in its overwhelming emotions and I know its pain just like I have enjoyed bountiful happiness. We all have for that matter–for it is as much a part of life as joy, doubt, wonder, and disappointment. And similar to all of the other feelings, emotions, and reactions that we experience that are sparked by things outside of our control, sorrow is meant to be fleeting–something that strikes us, affects us, then moves on–just as the metaphor of the birds in this saying reminds us. Problems occur in our lives when we invite those birds to stay–when we offer them a home in our hearts, minds, and spirits.
This proverb offers us two strong truths of life: bad things happen to all of us; and all physical relationships end in separation–whether because of death, divorce, relocation, or some other reason. For many, this is tough to face, though, for it means that the birds of sorrow will someday fly over our heads, and that brokenness will eventually find its way into our lives. That is why it is all the more important for us to be able to recognize, that during such times, this brokenness, sorrow, and grief do not have to become our lives.
Sometimes we go down the long road of depression, guilt, and blame. Along the way we invite the birds of sorrow to overstay their welcome, helping to not only keep ourselves down, but also the other people in our lives who care deeply about us. What we may not realize, though, is that when we ask the birds to stay, they take up all the room available in our heart and soul, leaving no space for joy, no room for happiness to hang its hat and stay awhile, no place for hope and optimism to rest in our company. By inviting in those birds, we inadvertently and necessarily reject the much more positive forces in our lives and in the lives of those we touch.
Of course, it is essential for us to live and to feel our sorrow while it is with us, as doing so is a necessary process of dealing with our grief, which is very real, and both demands and deserves our attention. So pay it the proper amount of attention, but realize that it will not be with you long, that it will soon have flown off in a new direction, leaving you far behind. There is absolutely no need to invite sorrow to stay. We often tend only to do so when our desire to feel self-pity is stronger than our desire to live full and fulfilling lives.
If you have any sorrows in your life, take a minute to think of them, and then remind yourself that this too, shall pass.
Questions to consider:
When do we tend to invite sorrow to stay more often? What are the effects on our lives when we do so?
Why should we let sorrow pass us by like a bird that is flying by?
Other than sorrow, what other things would you not want nesting in your hair?
For further thought:
“Sorrow comes in great waves–no one can know that better than you–but it rolls over us, and though it may almost smother us it leaves us on the spot, and we know that if it is strong, we are stronger, inasmuch as it passes and we remain.” ~ Henry James, The Letters of Henry James