#MixxGuestColumn: Misfortune Builds Character

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No one chooses misfortune. It’s just one of the unavoidable aspects of life. Like so many life experiences, it’s part of the learning and growing process. It not only helps us grow, but makes us grow. It builds character and strengthens the soul.

Misfortune builds character for the simple reason that no one is comfortable with pain. Therefore, when we find ourselves in a painful situation, we strive to improve the situation. In doing so, we have to reach deep inside ourselves to find the resources necessary to overcome the obstacles that stand in the way of us feeling better.  This can be a tremendous learning experience. It offers us the opportunity to learn about hidden, intimate aspects of our personality that we may not have been aware of.

Sometimes the things we learn are negative and hard to accept.  For instance, we might discover that we have a tendency to look at things pessimistically. Or, we may have a tendency to give up easily and stop trying.  While these things may be hard to accept at first, once we become aware of them, we have the opportunity to change them. Thus, we grow as an individual by changing things about ourselves we don’t like.

However, sometimes when we dig deep inside and take a candid look at ourselves, we discover many positive attributes, some of which we may have utilized from time to time, without recognizing them for what they are.  Marcus Aurelius said, “Dig within. There lies the well-spring of good: ever dig, and it will ever flow.”

We may discover, for example, that instead of falling apart in a time of crisis, we actually become stronger and more resilient. Or we may become more resourceful and determined when times are hard, and thus, overcome much more than we ever thought possible.  Speaking from my own experience, I remember when my mother passed away in December 1993.  I always thought that I would fall apart if anything happened to Mom or Dad.  I had a lot of fear, almost to the point of a phobia, about one of my parents dying, not knowing if I would be able to survive it.  But when Mom died, I not only held myself together, I was able to help other family members through it. I found a wellspring of inner strength I never knew I possessed. And while I was saddened over losing my mother, I came away from the experience with a greater sense of strength, self-assurance and independence than I had ever known. I grew as an individual while working my way through a unfortunate ordeal.

While no one chooses misfortune and the pain and discomfort associated with it, even if it means becoming a better person because of it, we are all faced with it many times throughout our lives. The way we approach these bad situations, not only determines how well we will get through them, but also how much we will learn and grow. Growth is essential to life. When we stop growing we are essentially dead. We may continue to take up space and use up air, but there’s more to life than just going through the motions.

To refuse to grow is, in a very real sense, choosing death over life. But if we want to continue to grow and live a robust and fruitful life, we must choose to face misfortune, and learn to look at it as a challenge, rather than a disaster. Learn and grow. Learn and grow. Or, as Ralph Waldo Emerson put it, “The only mode of obtaining an answer to these questions of the senses is to forego all low curiosity, and, accepting the tide of being which floats us into the secret of nature, work and live, work and live, and all unawares the advancing soul has built and forged for itself a new condition, and the question and the answer are one.”

The stoic philosopher and essayist, Seneca, was once asked, why do bad things happen to good people.  His

response, in part, was, “Good men toil, spend and are spent, and willingly; they are not dragged along by Fortune but follow her and keep in step…. What is the duty of the good man? To offer himself to Fate. It is a great consolation that our rapid course is one with the universe’s. Whatever it is that has ordained the mode of our life and the mode of our death has bound the gods, too, by the same necessity. The course that carries human affairs and divine alike is irrevocable. The very founder and ruler of all things has prescribed and fates indeed, but he follows them; he obeys always, he commanded but once…. His path will not be level, he must go uphill and down, he must be wave-tossed and steer his course in the face of Fortune…. Gold is tried by fire, brave men by misfortune.”

Live and learn, learn and grow; don’t ever give up and don’t ever give in.

Words By: “Ramblin” Dave Madden

The Mixx Magazine Guest Writer Section. Where creative thinking is turned into words.