Were It Not For The Pain, How Would You Know The Depth Of Your Character?
“Success is not measured by what you accomplish, but by the opposition you have encountered, and the courage with which you have maintained the struggle against overwhelming odds.” — Orison Swett Marden
The American novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote a letter to his daughter Scottie in 1940 stating: “Life is essentially a cheat and its conditions are those of defeat; the redeeming things are not happiness and pleasure but the deeper satisfactions that come out of struggle.”
Struggle is tied closely to the human condition, a simmering battle of opposing forces. It lurks amidst the anguish of opportunity and seizes us in moments of weakness.
The struggle is obvious, whether you’re engaged in chasing your dreams or caught up in the grind of everyday living.
Embedded in each person’s struggle is a purpose waiting to unfold.
Yet, many people never make it this far because the struggle intensifies their pain, and they quit even while they are ahead.
“Everything in your life — especially your challenges — is tailor-made to help you see your stories of struggle. Whatever is in the way is the way!” avows author Mary O’Malley in What’s in the Way Is the Way: A Practical Guide for Waking Up to Life.
In fact, the biggest impediments faced during times of struggle are the thoughts that get in the way.
Think of the last time you were enraged and considered writing an abrasive email, yet came back to it the following day.
I’m sure your emotional intensity waned, and you no longer felt the same.
Why is that?
The point is, your thoughts and their corresponding emotions are real. You experience their intensity and feel compelled to act on them.
Feel the emotions, but avoid being trapped by their impulsiveness.
Running away from pain only intensifies it. Explore the emotions by all means but don’t stuff them down.
The issue is that you are trapped in your thoughts and overstate what is taking place.
You assign a storyline that does not reflect reality. As within, so without states the Hermetic aphorism.
“Struggles only persist when we search outside for causes and cures,” asserts sports psychologist Garret Kramer in The Path of No Resistance: Why Overcoming is Simpler than You Think.
Looking back on history, the greatest stories arise from pain and struggle.
Joseph Campbell’s mythological narrative of the Hero’s Journey draws on twelve distinct themes, the two main encounters being: Crossing The Threshold and The Ordeal.
This same narrative is the basis of every successful Hollywood film. The main character experiences an obstacle in the beginning, only to overcome it in the end.
The American writer Mark Twain said: “Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.”
What transpires is more inexplicable than can be imagined.
We identify with this narrative because it is the human story we know all too well.
These forces are sewn into the fabric of life, intended to help you discover your greatness if you dare.
Resistance and Struggle
“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of those depths.” — Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
I value author and social researcher Brené Brown’s perspective in Rising Strong in which she writes: “But I’m learning that the process of struggling and navigating hurt has as much to offer us as the process of being brave and showing up.”
Inner growth does not occur without resistance and struggle.
The struggle is the seed that gives life to the unfolding story that beckons you to explore.
What if your past struggles have laid the foundations for something greater to emerge?
Is it worth exploring?
If there’s a compelling enough reason, it may ultimately lead you to success. Nothing should stand in the way if your motives are strong enough.
“People who cheat want to avoid the struggle, the cost, or the fight. They don’t know the truth about winning: Nothing of value in this world comes easy. The only way to get anywhere worthwhile is to go to work,” states author Larry Weidel in Serial Winner: 5 Actions to Create Your Cycle of Success.
Rest if you must, take a break however long, but don’t give up because you interfere with the unfolding story if you exit midway.
How can you maintain a hopeful outlook during uncertain times?
The Struggle Is Real and Worth It
“There is scarcely any passion without struggle.” ― Albert Camus
First, embrace the struggle, the pain and the disappointment.
By associating with it, you appreciate the goal or dream is real. The frustration, the heartache and misery is inviting you to reach higher.
Recall the Hero’s Journey?
No one portrays this more persuasively than former President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt, in a speech entitled Man in the Arena: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly… who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”
Don’t run away from the struggle as it will linger longer than you want it to.
Consider it an old friend who comes to stay for a while, yet is still sleeping on your couch one year later.
The struggle is not constrained by a timeline nor concerned by your disappointments. When it ushers into your life, it will turn you inside out and embed itself deep within your psyche.
So invite it in, make it a cup of tea since it will be staying longer thank you expect. Become acquainted with what it wants you to know and why it has called upon you.
Identify with the struggle and don’t try to get rid of it sooner because it will assuredly overstay its welcome if you force it to leave.
Author Mary O’Malley explains how everything in your life is leading you to overcome your struggles: “In fact, everything in your life is a part of the journey into recognizing and living from a place that is beyond struggle.”
Then one day, the struggle will disappear in search of another person to befriend.
Bid farewell and be ready to welcome the next episode; reward. When she sweeps in, it will be as though the struggle was a moment frozen in time.
It is with that we return to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s opening quote and draw your attention to the deeper satisfaction that emerge out of your struggles.
Were it not for the pain, how would you know the depths of your character?
For hidden within the recesses of your soul lies the need for glory, made apparent as struggle.