A very strong and wise woman said to me that she'd experienced an unpleasant and traumatic event because she felt it was a stepping stone to becoming what she is meant to be. She turned a sexual assault into a learning experience, into something that will help her realize her potential as a human being. I'm paraphrasing here, but this is the meaning I took from her words. I have so much love and pride for her, so much respect for her intellect and her wisdom.
I think of life as a sculpture: a sculptor adds and removes clay from their subject until a shape emerges; removing excess from one area and applying it to another, taking a step back and looking at the whole, judging the overall effect and making adjustments as necessary. This concept, applied to a person's life, works much in the same way. By examining events and actions, one can determine through reflection how the whole is impacted; take away what doesn't contribute positively to the overall affect and either apply it somewhere else or learn from the circumstance and discard it.
This can be a monumental task, because the emotions drawn out from events in our lives add a complex layer to our sculpture. Not only do we examine our work, but we have feelings for it as well; those feelings can cloud our perception of the sculpture, in such a way as to change our perception of it.