Adversity is Opportunity

sb10062327bz-001I was in a therapy session the other day when the person I was working with said that he was taught that things had to be easy to be okay. I found myself responding, “It is a privilege to struggle and have the opportunity to find out who we are and what we are made of.”

When life is easy, we can enjoy ourselves and that is wonderful. But what about when life is not so easy? What about when we are up against challenges that really scare or overwhelm us?

It seems that it would be great if our lives were always easy and happy rather than challenging. But if we can only feel happiness when we are in the right situations or conditions, born into the right family or the right socio-economic group, we are trapped by the external. Adversity allows us the opportunity to find out what we are capable of, to develop our strengths, and to access aspects of ourselves that we did not know existed and inner resources we didn’t know we had.

Adversity can teach us that we have the ability to rise beyond our environment, that we are powerful beings who co-create our lives. This knowing brings not only inner strength and self-empowerment, but also wisdom. Instead of being victim to circumstances which shift and change throughout the years, we can choose to know that no matter where we find ourselves, we have the ability to grapple with both the external situation and our attitude about it. Like a small leaf being carried down a river, we can accept that we will move through different times and challenges. Rather than judging ourselves for what life hands us, we can trust that if life doesn’t dump us on pleasant shores, we will find a way to create what we desire, whether in attitude or actual circumstances.

Look at a difficult situation in your life right now. Are you using it to develop your strengths and compassion for yourself, or are you telling yourself that you are bad, or that life isn’t fair?

Like the Greek goddess Psyche who, despite tremendous obstacles, persisted in nearly impossible tasks and in the process made her soul complete, we can do the same. By owning and developing our capacities, we create our life and world. We come to find out who we are. Things do not have to be easy to be okay.

© Copyright 2008 by Jennifer Lehr. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Brooklyn

    Brooklyn

    September 30th, 2008 at 5:01 PM

    I was a teenager when my dad was diagnosed with poly arteritis nodosa, an auto immune disease. Money was hard and hope was even harder. Its 19 years and counting now and dad is still around. His cheer and grit and my mother’s courage kept us all going. Dad is now a teacher and his disease simply vanished the way it came. Yes, adversity makes us stronger and makes us find our inner strength.

  • Megan

    Megan

    September 30th, 2008 at 5:04 PM

    i gave up my job for marital bliss. we were doing just fine till we discovered our baby was on its way. Times were very hard and i hit severe post partum depression. i took hesitant steps trying my luck with part time work, but hey i am doing great at this for the last 2 years. i think in difficult times we can find strength

  • Carter

    Carter

    October 6th, 2008 at 3:28 AM

    Unfortunately i have been faced with much adversity in my life. From growing up in a single parent home to making huge mistakes in my own life along the way, if it is out there I have done it. But that adversity in the end has made me a stronger person. It has forced me to deal with issues that I may have otherwise pushed to the side. It has forced me to confront my past and come up with new ways to deal with it and overcome it for my own present and future sanity. Has it always been fun? Absolutely not. But it has been a great challenge and encouraged me to become all that I can be, to know that when I work hard I can get through and become a better person for that in the end.

  • Maggie

    Maggie

    October 7th, 2008 at 12:55 AM

    i work with the visually challenged and hearing impaired people. they give me more strength than I need to run my day. we take so many things for granted. finding our matching earrings, shoes and a whole load of things we do with our sight. hearing the sound of your baby cry or laugh is not a right but a privilege given by God. we needn’t be hard on ourselves….we are normal but tough enough not to succumb to our pride.

  • Stacy L

    Stacy L

    October 16th, 2008 at 2:57 AM

    One great thing about adversity is that it shows us just how strong we really can be. And I for one think this is a great thing. Do I always want things to be difficult? No. But I can tell you this. The times when I have been challenged and forced to work a little harder are the times that have taught me more about myself and what I really can accomplish once I set my mind to it. This may sound simplistic but I think that we all need challenges from time to time in order to keep us from being so darned complacent. We need ways to strengthen our minds and bodies, and to prove to ourselves and others that we have what it takes.

  • Kyle

    Kyle

    November 16th, 2008 at 3:13 PM

    How do you really know who you are and what you believe when you have never faced adversity and had those ideas challenged? That is what is so great about a college setting for example. This is a time when you can play around with your beliefs and gain a healthy understanding of who you are and the way you feel about a number of issues in a non threatening and educational environment. The fact that so many people conform to certain ideas in order to avoid confrontation is ridiculous to me. There is no better way to strengthen your arguments and your core set of beliefs than to have them challenged and to own up to the adversity that you face. Without an opportunity such as this I would question someone as to whether what he or she said was really because of what they actually believe or what they had been told by others that they should believe. There is a real difference there.

  • Wendy

    Wendy

    September 21st, 2013 at 4:42 AM

    I completely agree that if we know how to work with it, adversity can make us stronger. However, in the face of some extreme adversity like not being able to find clean drinking water or being sold into slavery or being raped, I think the world “privilege” in terms of adversity sounds a bit enthusiastic. I don’t think it’s a privilege to struggle — especially with external factors that often have little to do with anything but the current political and socioeconomic conditions of living, but I do think adversity can, in many situations — particularly for those privileged to be white and living in the western world — can give us much opportunity.

    Currently my wife lives in Greece. While the crisis there certainly has given her opportunities like marrying me, to see the rise of the Greek Nazi party and the way people are being doubly taxed but have no employment, or, if employed, not being paid — that’s not a privilege. In some cases opportunity, yes, but not a privilege.

  • Wendy

    Wendy

    September 21st, 2013 at 4:44 AM

    Oh yeah and I don’t think it’s much of a privilege for my wife and I to be living 5,000 miles apart. How we overcome this may bring us more strength than we thought we had (actually, she knows about overcoming adversity, and I struggle more with that).

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