Our character has been forged in the furnace of adversity. We know what pain feels like. We cannot change the past. However, we can choose to use these reference points as a rich resource to assist us in better understanding and connecting with people. When we use our life experiences in the service of others, we will finally find purpose in our suffering, joy in our journey, and much needed healing in our souls. — Dave Blanchard
I picked this quote for my article, looked at the calendar to see when it would be published, then realized that the publishing date is coincidentally Purple Heart Day. Wow! Our Purple Heart veterans have sure gone through the furnace of adversity! I promise I didn’t plan the correlation of this article with that date—but maybe Someone above planned it that way.
Every person who has ever lived has experienced adversity. We all have moments of anguish, fear, and hurt. There isn’t a person on earth who won’t experience sadness, grief, and pain. It is what we choose to do with all that heartache and all those trials that make up our character. We can run down the road of blame and sour grapes, or we can walk the quiet path of peace and contentment.
I grew up with a friend who had been seriously burned. Her siblings were playing with matches in the back seat of the parked family car when a lit match dropped on her clothes. Before it was over, my friend had been burned from the calves of her legs to just below her eyes. While I was playing with the rest of my friends during the Christmas and Easter holidays, every holiday break for many years, my friend was having corrective surgery in the hospital. I remember our senior year of high school how excited she was coming back from one of those surgeries sporting a chin. She was elated to finally have a chin after all those years.
My friend had every reason to be bitter and unhappy. She could have blamed her siblings for their actions in the car that day. She had experienced pain that I can’t even begin to understand—physical and emotional. Not once did I ever hear my friend complain, blame, or even talk about how hard her life had become. She was always smiling. Her eyes always twinkled and smiled. I remember thinking how glad I was that her eyes had not been burned, as her personality came through in those always loving, laughing, smiling, twinkling eyes.
When I feel like the world is throwing darts at me, and I begin to feel sorry for myself, I often think about my friend, and how she played the cards that had been dealt to her. I am instantly chastised. I have been blessed in so many ways. My friend was my great example of how to get through difficult times with a kind, happy heart intact. I believe, as Dave Blanchard said, that my friend used her pain as reference points to better understand the pain of others and connect with us. She always knew how to cheer me up, and how to make my life and the lives of our other friends just a little better. There was always a kind word and a listening ear. She was always serving someone else, and I believe it did help her to understand her own suffering as it provided healing to her own soul.
Adversity will surface in some form in every life. How we prepare for it, how we meet it, makes the difference. We can be broken by adversity, or we can become stronger. The final result is up to the individual. . . .Those who yield to adversity become weaker. To the valiant it is a stepping-stone to increased power. Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and God-fearing people worldwide will not pray for freedom from trials. They will not surrender or panic. They will strive to put themselves in condition to meet and master troublesome trials (Elder Marvin J. Ashton, “Adversity and You,” Oct. 1980 General Conference).
There are many good things about social media, but it has its drawbacks too. I’ve noticed that social media seems to be an easy way for us all to moan and complain about our awful lives. We almost play the “one-upmanship” game to see who has the most pain. While it is good to be real with people online and not pretend to be people we are not, we can take it too far. The more we complain and murmur online, the more bitter we seem to become. I find myself wishing I knew where my long lost school friend is, because I would love to see her twinkling, happy eyes on Facebook. I know she would have happy things to post—and they wouldn’t be just memes. It seems we only know how to say happy things if they are someone else’s words that we can slap a flower on to post.
What kind of character traits are you forming as a result of your adversity? If they aren’t the right ones, I challenge you to begin to change.
Tudie Rose is a mother of four and grandmother of ten in Sacramento, California. You can find her on Twitter as @TudieRose. She blogs as Tudie Rose at http://potrackrose.wordpress.com. She has written articles for Familius. You will find a Tudie Rose essay in Lessons from My Parents, Michele Robbins, Familius 2013, at http://www.familius.com/lessons-from-my-parents.