I fell in love at the age of 23. He was all the things that I wasn’t—fearless, fun, confident and living in the moment. He drove a motorcycle, did all the things he wanted to, lived life on the edge and fully trusted his instincts. I allowed myself to cross the bridge of falling in love with all my heart. I chose to be completely open and authentic, sharing my life experiences, my fears, everything. I was “all in,” and I thought he was, too. I was convinced that he was the one.

One beautiful Tel Aviv day, we went for a stroll on the beach.This was the moment I had longed for He suddenly said he wanted to talk. I had butterflies in my stomach. This was the moment I had longed for—to find the man who would love me as I loved him, who would cherish, understand and accept me for all time. As I turned to him, expecting to hear thequestion, I saw tears in his eyes. “I’m sorry, Michal,” he said. “It’s over. I love you, but when I think to myself, ‘Who would I take with me to a deserted island? Who can’t I possibly live without?’ I realize it isn’t you. You’re not my future wife. I can’t see this going anywhere beyond what it already is, so it’s better to end it now. I love you. You’re just not the one.”

The sun was still shining, the surfers were catching waves, the world had not stopped moving. Even so, I felt like my heart had paused, and I wondered if it would ever beat again now that it was shattered into a million tiny pieces. This might sound dramatic, but for me—entirely in love, for once totally safe and honest in my relationship—it was horrible pain. In his army service, this man had been a bomb-disposal expert. I remember thinking that he had placed a bomb in the middle of my heart, stood back, triggered it and watched it explode.

My recovery was slow. I lost a quarter of my body weight, along with any interest in going out, enjoying life or meeting someone new. I lost faith in loving again. The only thing I hoped for was to stop hurting so much. I had been raised for perfection, and failure was one of my greatest fears. Now that this man had left me, I was not only heartbroken, but my ego was badly bruised, too. I lost my self-confidence and thought of myself as a complete failure. And because failure was the worst thing I could think of, the sense of brokenness was even more painful.

It took me more than two years to start healing from my heartbreak. Long after, I discovered a life changing idea—shvira, the Hebrew word for “brokenness.” It goes entirely against how our society usually views suffering and is wonderfully expressed in a saying by the 19th-century Chassidic sage Rabbi Menachem Mendel Morgenstern, known as the Kotzker Rebbe. “There is nothing more complete than a broken heart.” In other words, your heart is more complete now that it’s broken. How can that be?

When a heart breaks, it breaks into pieces with cracks in between. The Kotzker Rebbe’s saying suggests that true growth takes place in the cracks between the broken shards. It’s in those spaces that your wisdom, maturity and strength can grow into beautiful imperfection. Of course, no one wants to have their heart broken. No one wants to discover that they were wrong about being loved, to lose confidence or feel like a failure. But the growth that comes from these feelings of worthlessness; pain can ultimately be greater than the pain itself.

Yet what about those heartaches that feel simply impossible to survive? In his book Man’s Search for Meaning, Holocaust survivor and psychiatrist Viktor Frankl discusses his time in Auschwitz. He describes how he and hundreds of others were put through physical and mental torture, and came close to death. During this time, he observed a pattern that fascinated him: The prisoners who showed more of a will to survive were the ones who had found meaning in their lives.

For Frankl himself, that meaning was his love for his wife, Tilly, and the hope that he would eventually find her. After the war, he searched. However, he soon learned that his beloved wife had died of typhus in Bergen-Belsen. Eventually, he secured internal strength and resilience—not despite his grief, but because of it. Just as life and the world had changed, he knew that he also had to. Frankl discovered a new purpose: telling the world about Auschwitz and the psychological insights he acquired there. Man’s Search for Meaning has sold more than 9 million copies and has been translated into at least 24 languages.

There was a time when I tried to “fix” what had gone wrong in me, hide the scars, make myself “perfect.” That is, until I learned about shvira and the value of broken things. Today, I keep that chipped nail as a reminder. I won’t get rid of the torn blanket; I’ll sew it up myself. And the broken toaster? I use things like that as a doorstop or a toy. Yes, really.

Moses spent 40 days and 40 nights on Mount Sinai. The Israelites grew impatient and forged a Golden Calf. When Moses finally came down, he saw the forbidden idol and smashed the Tablets of the Law he had received from G‑d. After reprimanding and punishing the sinners, Moses went back up the mountain and begged G‑d to forgive the Israelites for their grave sin. He pleaded, and eventually, G‑d agreed, granting His forgiveness. A new, second set of tablets was carved and handed to Moses by G‑d. It was an opportunity to start again.

Lo and behold, the original tablets, which were broken into pieces, were not thrown away. In fact, they were kept alongside the new, unbroken tablets in the holiest of places: the Ark of the Covenant. They were revered and honored because they symbolized and commemorated human mistakes, as well as the opportunity to gain forgiveness. Brokenness and wholeness sat side by side, as they still do today. If we don’t forgive, we lack the capacity to learn from mistakes, to repair and move forward. We resent others and ourselves. We hold on to anger for far too long.

At the end of a Jewish wedding ceremony, the groom traditionallyThings always break, even in the happiest of times breaks a glass by stomping on it. This can be a reminder for us that things will always break, even in the happiest of times. And those hard moments can and should be used to develop a stronger marriage. The couple must learn to accept brokenness and use it as a vehicle for growth to become even more whole.

Throughout your life, your heart will be broken in multiple, different ways—by rejection, guilt, failure, loss, shame. One heartbreak doesn’t protect you from future breaks; one shattering doesn’t prevent future pain. Yet when we get comfortable with feeling uncomfortable and accept that life was never supposed to be perfect, we allow ourselves to look at life as a grand chance to better ourselves. So while we cannot be happy all the time, it is entirely possible and natural to simultaneously carry sadness and joy, failure and forgiveness, heartbreak and hope, fear and purpose, all together inside.

Text adapted from What Would You Do If You Weren’t Afraid?, reprinted by permission of DK, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © 2021 Michal Oshman.