Irish poet and novelist Oscar Wilde so accurately said some time ago, “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”
Everyone you meet, whether they admit it or not, is fighting a very difficult battle, striving to overcome a challenge, problem, or hardship. While some of us choose to settle into the struggle and allow it to control us, others of us choose to dig in, deeper and deeper.
It is the universal connection of struggle and sacrifice that makes us human and unordinary. In a way, we’re all on a level playing field but some of us have chops to play the game under any condition. Struggles are not seen as burdens but as necessary components of the game’s strategy.
Do you think you would be who you are and where you are without the problems that made you think, feel, and ultimately become a stronger and wiser person?
I like to think I would but I know it is the farthest thing from the truth. The struggle is the opportunity I’ve been looking for. It doesn’t mean you fail at everything first. It just means you fail at some things first. And it is frustrating and heartbreaking but it is reality. Owning that reality — seeing bad luck as opportunity — will have you looking for the next problem.
I think about Joseph here. Just imagine being hated by your jealous brothers, robbed of your special coat, thrown into a pit, and left for dead. He could have easily given up in that struggle, took it all personally and sought to retaliate. After all, to be loved and valued is one of the greatest human needs. To belong and fit in with other people is a close second. But this didn’t happen for Joseph.
When he was pulled out by people he did not know, he could have allowed bitterness and resentment to set in his heart. (Which is what some of us do when we face struggles. We hit a brick wall and out come the curse words and the eye rolls and the “dammit”.) But instead, he held his head up and used his experiences as fuel for the fire. It made him better, stronger, wiser, more humble, more willing to serve.
This is what some rare souls do. And this is what you and I have to do. Choosing to use our challenges to find greater purpose, to add fuel to our fire, to fight for our dreams, to persevere to reach our goals, and to ensure that we keep moving through the steps is a high responsibility. For when we persevere, others gain strength to persevere too.
Throwing in the towel helps no one, not even you. And telling yourself you’ll never make it because “so and so did this” or “that happened or didn’t happen” makes it so. Blaming others and playing the luck card is not courage, it’s fear and fear is crippling.
It is in the challenges that we often find the strength we need. It is in adversity that we discover what it means to grow. We do what we never thought we could do. And take small steps forward, crossing one river at a time, moving one rock at a time, turning your life into something far greater and far more special than you ever thought possible.
We all face challenges but some of us are finding the fire deep down to pull off the joy and courage like it never happened.