We grow through challenges

This week, my father sent me this:

“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” – This is BS, at least in its everyday, modern sinterpretation. Suffering doesn’t make you stronger. It uses you, makes you more vulnerable, weakens you. The human soul is not a leather to be tanned through the tests of life. It is a sensitive, vibrant, delicate membrane. When hurt, it becomes bruised, branded, haunted. – Jean-Christophe Grangé, Le Passager

I don’t know Mr. Grangé and I have never read the book that this excerpt is taken from. But I have a different perspective on the quote.

I don’t think it’s that cut and dry. It depends on a lot of things: our background, our experiences, how we deal with challenges, trauma and whatever life throws at us. How do we react? Do we act like a victim and say “why me?” or do we see it as a challenge and say “try me”? Are we willing and able to learn from the experience? Things happen in life to teach us lessons, to help us course correct, to make sure that we continually grow. When faced with a difficult situation, we apply what we’ve learned from previous experiences and if we learned our lesson well, we don’t make the same mistake twice. I’ve heard a few friends say that if things show up in our life again and again, it’s because we haven’t learned our lesson. It also enables us to approach things differently each time and try new solutions to our problems. Using challenges as a way to develop new life coping skills, then it indeed makes us stronger. It also helps us develop empathy and sympathy, so we can be a beacon of light for people who are going through stuff too.

However, if we approach it from a “victim” perspective, then I can see that the above statement rings true. It also means that we feel we have no control over our life, what happens and how we react. While we can’t control what comes our way, we CAN control how we respond. So, it’s not about controlling our life, but control how we navigate through life. Why let life happen to us when we can actually guide it in the direction we want? There are some things we can control in order to live our best life. 

I have a friend who has been in a long custody battle. At every turn, he has been thwarted and has had to deal with disappointment after disappointment. Now, it’s not to say that he looks at the world with rose colored glasses, but I have seen him learn from every disappointment, every challenge and every “no” answer he received. Every one of those added fuel to the fire in his belly. He has his moments where he is haunted and vulnerable, but at the same time, he is stronger than he was when this started because he has had to fight through so much. He learned and with every obstacle he conquered, he got stronger, using his experience to fight more effectively next time.

So, how do we want to approach life? As a victim or as an opportunity for growth?

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