I’ve been marinating two opposing thoughts recently. A friend said that she considers her difficult experiences in life blessings because they have made her who she is and given her strength. The other stated that you could “validate being strong, without suggesting being traumatized was worth it.” Nate Postlethwait via Twitter) I haven’t decided which way I fall or that I ever will, but I love teasing out the thinking (and invite any input or feedback from readers).
I do believe that my life’s hardships have taught me resiliency, self trust, self reliance, and empathy. Certainly getting through each situation has shown me that I can get knocked down and rise up again. In the past decade, I have found that becoming more vulnerable by giving myself permission to share, which in turn gives others permission, has taken a lot of courage and has rewarded me with richer, deeper relationships. I feel in my core that I can handle what comes my way, whether alone or by leaning on others.
But I also must concede that I sure do wish I didn’t have to experience some of the traumas to consider myself strong. Could I not have arrived at the same place, though maybe not at the same time, with gentler lessons and kinder people? Were those experiences necessary for me to break open and dig deep? Could I have obtained the same level of self awareness and self acceptance without the pain and suffering?
I don’t have the answer here and even if I did, it wouldn’t matter because what’s done is done. But it does make me think about the growth opportunities and challenges we can provide to our trusted circle to help each other develop and embrace our courage and strength without having to hurt, betray, lose, harm, or diminish others.
As a teacher, I think of all the problem solving activities I present and think, Can strength not be found in the practice of developing grit, delaying gratification, failing forward, and seeking help? As a mother, I think of the conversations I have with my daughters to push their thinking, present alternatives, help them look within themselves, and embrace challenges and take risks. As a friend, I probe, question, reflect back and provide perspective to promote growth and understanding. Aren’t these all ways to gain strength that don’t require trauma?
Without exception, life holds pain, sadness, grief, disappointment, frustration, unfairness, injustice, inequality, and so much more. Our strength gets us through those times and we hopefully come out the other side with additional qualities that enhance our lives and those of others. I just don’t know if we need to celebrate the trauma with the consolation that what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.
Photo: Hackettstown, NJ. 8.26.22 by LA
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