Even when life is hardest, there are meanings to be found, riches to be harvested, and gifts to be reaped from the trials that one undergoes.
These pains you feel are messengers. Listen to them.
When life gives you lemons, make lemonade”. Everyone knows the cliché, of course, and brave people often rise above adversity to climb great heights. Given that life hands lemons to everyone from time to time, the bravest approach is to turn those “lemons” into lemonade.
Engaging mindfully with our sufferings is a fruitful way for living authentic and meaningful lives. Sufferings, like ecstasy, have their own unique place in structuring our emotional toolbox. We must always have a template of our core values that can be used as a shield against our adversities.
With introspective analysis, we begin to realise that prosperity is an emotional booster but adversity is not without value — it is a great teacher. One burnishes the mind, the other hones it. Even when life is hardest, there are meanings to be found, riches to be harvested, and gifts to be reaped from the trials that one undergoes.
With every crisis, you emerge a stronger person. As gold is purified in fire, so too is a person, in suffering. Like gold, we cast off impurities of egoism and vanity. We cast off our baser self to let the spiritual self emerge. The Bible reminds us: “But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.”
Adversity makes you tap into the deeper wellsprings of fortitude which would have remained lain and dormant and eventually dried up. Ask any wise man what is the great learning experience; and he would say without hesitation that the best teacher is adversity. it makes you a wholesome person. As Byron said, “A man can see farther through a tear than through a telescope.”
We all know how Abraham’s faith was tested by the fire. Each painful episode fortifies our endurance and resilience, and is an essential learning experience for building our life skills. As Nietzsche puts it, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” For every negative that happens, there is a positive side. Life forces us to stretch so that we grow and become sturdier.
When you have gone through any painful situation, for example, cancer, abuse, addiction, loss of a loved one, financial ruins and the like, your self-worth is likely to get destroyed. It takes hard work and determination to build it back. But when we recover from adversity, we are left with a rare gift-resilience and tenacity.
Rumi tells us, “In tears come laughter concealed. Seek the treasure beneath the ruins.”
Sigmund Freud believed that people make decisions according to the “pleasure principle”, intuitively seeking comfort or pleasure and shying away from discomfort or pain. Avoiding pain does have immediate positive implications for survival. But unless we are exposed to healthy doses of pain we may later turn hyper-sensitive and vulnerable to even small doses of stress. This avoidance is the enemy of resilience.
Each adversity carries its own challenges and has the potential to yield its own unique form of wisdom. We need to acknowledge it and grow wiser from it.
Maya Angelou explains it with a beautiful analogy: “We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.”