Every event we experience changes us. From recent mass shootings to the loss of a loved one, suffering is a shared human condition. The depth of the pain, the more chaotic the event, the stronger the impact on the person experiencing it. I’ve seen this pattern repeated over and over again.

Earlier this week, I walked a friend through one of the most difficult decisions she’s made in her life. She recently bought a horse from someone who did not disclose the horse’s old injury, one leaving him permanently lame and in pain.

Drugging horses for sale is nothing new in our equine culture, both by private sellers and at auctions. Horses seem fine when looked at. It’s after the purchase the signs begin to show.

This pattern of behavior is endemic in our society. The idea there are no consequences for our actions creates opportunities for dishonest, hurtful actions.

As my friend, who is not wealthy and new to the U.S., began to investigate her horse’s seemingly brand-new lameness, she found instead an old injury that could not be corrected by surgery or therapy, because it happened too long ago. The broken sesamoid bone in the horse’s rear leg caused three years of irreparable soft tissue damage.

Because it was was a “private sale,” there was little my friend could do. The person who sold her the horse would not return her money, but offered to pay the “meat price” for him, the price paid when a horse goes to slaughter. She was up front with my friend, telling her if she took the horse back she would simply sell him to someone else.

After spending more money than she ever expected, trying to find a nonexistent hope, the horse had to be put down. My friend was the one making the decision.

She was devastated. Her pain was severe and those of us who love her could only watch on, offering prayer, hugs, support and love.

When the vet came, we were there together. When she loaded her horse into the trailer, I watched, heartbroken. I have three horses of my own. I saw her pain, her strength and her deep love for this horse who never had a chance.

It’s been three days now since her horse has been gone. We text several times a day, but she hasn’t been back to the barn yet. It’s too hard. My friend has three young children and a soldier husband who is away training, unable to be reached by phone. She is still grieving the decision she was forced to make and the loss of her beautiful horse. Her twins, both of whom give me great joy, are grieving. So am I. Collateral damage is rarely avoided in situations like this.

What I already know was reinforced by this experience. No matter how much effort we apply, there is no going back. The pain is real, so the healing must be. Love is as much a part of the human condition as is hardship.

The focus of our efforts must then be to heal in ways beneficial to us and our fellow humans. If today finds you stuck in a situation you believe is out of your control, what thing, no matter how small, can you give all your effort to?

One answer is prayer, followed by action. The action can be simple, like sharing your story with a trusted friend or mentor. This mental shift takes your attention off the problem, focusing it on the solution, your healing.

My friend is healing because she decided not to blame, not to hate. She chose transparency over making her pain her identity. She shared her suffering and loss with others.

We each of us only live in pain as long as we allow it. Don’t let the actions of others change your path. Make a choice to heal, instead of residing in a victim mentality. God made us vessels for joy, peace and love. Find yours.