When Lightning Strikes Your World

when lightning strikes

When you think of Oregon you naturally think of trees, right? Where I live there are trees for as far as the eye can see. In fact, I am literally surrounded by millions of acres of forest.

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As you can imagine, summer thunder storms that bring lightning to the region are a matter of concern. Almost without exception, forest fires are caused by lightning strikes. Some people live with the threat of earthquakes or hurricanes. For us, it’s lightning.

A burning example

Consider the Biscuit Fire which took place in the summer of 2002 as a result of a summer lightning storm. Before it was over, this ravenous wildfire had burned nearly half a million acres of the pristine Siskiyou National Forest of Oregon and Northern California.

That was an edgy time for us. We could see the actual flames from our home and we were on 30 minute evacuation alert status for about three weeks. It’s impossible to describe the magnitude or intensity of this raging beast as it consumed everything in its path. Suffice it to say, it was truly fear inspiring.

There is no way to prevent lightning

There are many potential threats in life that we can avoid by taking preventative measures. However, a major force like lightning does not fit into this category. There is nothing we can do to alter its course of lightning even slightly, let alone prevent it.

It is estimated that, on average, over the entire earth’s surface, lightning strikes approximately 100 times per second. Since this is something that can’t be altered, what options do we have?

Deal with it effectively

When something can’t be prevented, the next best thing is to deal with it swiftly and effectively. This is precisely why the Biscuit Fire was so devastating. The fire started by lightning was spotted almost immediately after the strike, but it  was allowed to burn unchecked until it was too late.

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There was a time when strategically placed lookout towers were manned by fire watchmen all summer long. They were on high alert during lightning storms and as soon as a fire started, they notified the smoke jumpers. These fire fighting “hot shots” would be dispatched by helicopter within minutes. They dealt with the problem before it got out of control. Their swift response minimized the potentially serious threat.

Side note: For some reason, the powers that be closed the smoke jumper’s base and stopped using lookouts prior to the Biscuit Fire.

When lightning strikes your world

Now the odds that you or I will be struck by actual lightning during our lifetime are only about 1 in 5000. But what are the odds that we will experience some potentially devastating, unpreventable, lightning like event?

The fact that we all carry various kinds of insurance pretty well answers that question. Insurance companies make billions every year because people recognize that unforeseen occurrences befall us all. It’s one of the ways we try to prepare for things that we can’t control.

When bad things happen

Bad stuff happens, and sometimes there is nothing you could have done to prevent it. The next best thing you can do is to respond like a smoke jumper after a lightning storm. Act swiftly to minimize the problem before it gets out of control.

I realize that this sounds like painfully obvious advice. Our logical mind says: “hey, tell me something I don’t know.” But here’s the problem, when unforeseen occurrences strike, we are usually caught off guard. In situations like that, we tend to respond emotionally, not logically.

Take a look around

How many people do you know who use denial as a coping mechanism? All this does is allow a bad situation to get even worse. How many others allow fear to stop them from taking action that could minimize their pain and suffering? Fear and denial only multiply problems, they never help.

Reality is your friend, especially in a threatening situation. But this concept is also true when it comes to preventable problems. Consider the relationship that slowly grows cold because no one was willing to talk about “the problems” until it was too late. How about the minor health issues that set the stage for major health problems because someone was in denial.

Be honest with yourself, you deserve it

Whether it’s a personal lightning strike or a slow burn, an honest assessment of the situation followed be swift action is always the best course. Sometimes, the hardest person to be honest with is ourselves. Ironically, this is the foundation of all personal growth. The first personal development skill we need to master is self-honesty.

Admittedly, this kind of honesty will sometimes reveal challenges that we wish didn’t exist. When that happens we should view it as an opportunity for growth. Once the problem is exposed, we can minimize its negative effect by dealing with it swiftly and effectively.

7 Ways to minimize an adverse situation

1) Take preventative measures whenever possible.
2) Accept the fact that bad thing do happen to good people.
3) Act swiftly to minimize the problem before it gets out of control.
4) Never use denial as a coping mechanism.
5) Don’t let fear stop you from taking action.
6) Be honest with yourself when making an assessment.
7) View every challenge as an opportunity for growth.

Your life will have occasional lightning storms to challenge you

Interestingly, there are many benefits to lightning. In the bigger picture, life on earth actually requires lightening. Did you realize that without thunderstorms and lightning, the earth-atmosphere electrical balance would disappear in 5 minutes.

The journey of life has its ups and down, and sometimes we get hit by lightning. No one said it would be without challenges. In the bigger picture though, it’s often our greatest challenges that teach the most valuable lessons. Happily, life is also full of wonderful experiences and opportunities. We can let fear and denial rob us of our joy, or we can embrace the wonderment of it all.

How do you deal when lightning hits your world?
Do you find self-honesty challenging?
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