Friday, March 1, 2013

Blessing Adversity

As a writer and a speaker, I’m pretty much an open book.  I’m not afraid to talk about some of the things I’ve gone through in my life, what I’ve overcome, and what I’m still working on.  Many times after a talk, people will come up to me and tell me how much they related to what I was saying.  Recently, I spoke at a church in Dayton, Ohio, and a young woman came up to me afterwards and told me that it could have been her up there speaking instead of me. 

We all go through adversity.  Adversity is described as difficulties or misfortune.  It’s a part of life.  We can’t avoid it.  Adversity comes at us from birth until death.  Some have more of it than others, but it’s there all the same.  The difference is how we deal with what life throws at us.  Some are more able to sail through it, while others let it destroy them.  So, what’s the difference? 

A lot of it has to do with our attitudes towards life.  Do we have an “anything that can go wrong will go wrong” outlook?  Or do we look for the good that can come from it?  Just that shift in our outlook can make the biggest difference in how we deal with those obstacles that seem to pop up out of nowhere.  Do we play victim?  Or do we play hero where we push through until we get to the other side? 

One thing I’ve learned about adversity is that it sure makes me appreciate the good times so much more.  I’ve learned how much being in a state of gratitude can shift my perspective.  Looking for the good that comes from any situation already helps us to push through.  Obviously, the situation we are going through may not be good.  In fact, it can be one of the most horrendous things we’ve ever experienced.  Personally, I believe that good comes from everything whether we can see it at the moment or not.  That’s why I love hindsight.  Many times I can’t see the good until sometime after the event and I can look back and think, “Oh, so that’s why I went through that!”  It is only then that I find that the experience has actually made me a stronger and better person.  If nothing else, it taught me to have more love, compassion, and understanding for others who are going through the same experiences. 

Many years ago, my twenty-seven year old cousin was accidentally shot and killed by his best friend’s ten-year old son.  My cousin’s own son of the same age witnessed it.  That event put the families on both sides through hell.  At the funeral as I greeted my cousin’s wife and others, my young cousin was sitting there and people seemed to pass him by not knowing what to say to a child.  I stopped to give him my love and told him, “Don’t you let this destroy you!  You take this and you let it make you a stronger and better person.”  I don’t know if he remembers my words, or if they even made any difference.  Maybe it planted a seed.  I don’t know.  I do know that today, my cousin is twenty-one and is an EMT and firefighter.  He’s grown up well-adjusted and a fine young man.  He’s also dedicated his life in service to others.  I’m very proud of him.  His life could have gone a whole other way.  Of course, he had good people surrounding him.  His mom immediately forgave the other boy and continued to include him in family gatherings.  I’m sure his mom’s attitude made a world of difference for him.  Because of her choices, and those of other family members, they made it through the adversity and became heroes in their own lives.

We are all diamonds in the rough.  Adversity is the chipping, sanding, and polishing that makes us into the greatest expressions of who we are meant to be.  It is only in darkness that we can learn to let our light shine. 

The Dalai Lama said, “When we meet real tragedy in life, we can react in two ways--either by losing hope and falling into self-destructive habits, or by using the challenge to find our inner strength.” 

Adversity also helps us to develop character.  Martin Luther King, Jr. stated, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

It’s not easy, but once we learn to bless the adversity, it will change the whole outcome and we will prevail.  Victim or hero?  It’s our choice.

(Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen paper March 1, 2013.)

1 comment:

Rev. Joy Scudder said...

Thank you, Karen. Your timing is perfect. Your words hold promise and give me strength for challenges yet to come.