Adversity: Here to Break Us or Make Us?

Pain, suffering, stress, and other difficulties are the admission tickets to the game of life. But, at times, we cannot help suspecting that life would be much more pleasant without the hassles. Is that what you think? Before answering, ponder the following. In a world without hurdles, there are no champions; without suffering, there are no saints; without battles, there are no victories; without rain, no rainbows. Doesn’t it appear that a world that includes pain is more rewarding than one that doesn’t? Isn’t heat necessary to produce gold, pressure and polishing necessary to produce diamonds, and adversity necessary to produce character?

Here’s how Henry Ford expressed the same sentiment: Life is a series of experiences, each one of which makes us bigger, even though sometimes it is hard to realize this. For the world was built to develop character, and we must learn that the setbacks and grieves which we endure help us in our marching onward.

Points to Consider

1. Adversity is unavoidable. So, don’t fight it, accept it. Develop the proper attitude, for as Havelock Ellis wrote, Pain and death are part of life. To reject them is to reject life itself. Although pain is inevitable, suffering is optional. We can choose to be strong. It is not misfortune that produces suffering, but an improper reaction to it.

Even under the worst circumstances, we can choose to focus on the positive rather than the negative. Thomas A. Edison is an example. In 1914, a fire almost destroyed his New Jersey laboratories. Valuable records of his experiments and two million dollars worth of equipment were lost. When surveying the damage, the sixty-seven year old Edison said, There is great value in disaster. All our mistakes are burned up. Thank God we can start anew.

When Hurricane Mitch swept across Central America and parts of the U.S., it left a path of destroyed homes, dashed dreams, and broken hearts. After the storm subsided, birds returned to uprooted trees and began to sing. Isnt it true, as Rose F. Kennedy says, Birds sing after a storm; why shouldn’t people feel as free to delight in whatever remains to them?

2. Realize that misfortune tells what fortune is. We need winter to appreciate spring, rain to appreciate the sunshine, and adversity to be thankful for the calm after the storm.

3. Recognize misfortune for what it is: an opportunity to lift yourself to a higher level. Sailors caught in a storm should prayer not for safety from danger, but for deliverance from fear. Why should they accept the storm? Because a smooth sea never made a skillful mariner.

When an eagle believes her eaglets are large enough to learn how to fly, she begins to take apart the nest and push the eaglets out. After this rude awakening, the eaglets discover they have wings! They can fly! The universe is constantly nudging us, pushing us off one cliff after another, in the hope that one day we, too, will discover our wings and soar to new heights.

4. Lessen your suffering by refusing to linger on past difficulties or expecting future ones.
Problems of the present are difficult enough to deal with. Dont add to your misery by regretting the past or worrying about what might happen in the future. Mark Twain understood that it was pointless to fret about the future when he said, I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.

5. Realize it could be worse. Count your blessings. Keep in mind the Persian proverb: I cried because I had no shoes until I saw someone with no feet.

Regardless of how horrible your circumstances, you are probably not paralyzed and unable to speak. However, Mr. Washington Roebling was. You see, more than 100 years ago, Washington’s father, John, had a dream to build The Brooklyn Bridge. Experts at the time believed it to be impossible, but John finally persuaded the city to support his project. He and his son, Washington, were the lead engineers and the only ones who knew how to build such a bridge. After just a few months into the project, there was an accident that took the life of John and left his son with permanent brain damage. Although unable to speak, write, or walk, Washington’s mind was alert and he could move one finger. Determined to realize his fathers dream, he developed a code, which made it possible to communicate with his wife by tapping on her arm with his finger. Washington tapped on his wife’s arm for thirteen years, relaying all the instructions for the engineers. Today, the bridge stands as a testimony of how we can overcome any obstacle, if only we choose to do so.