It's no secret that I passionately believe the hard times in life are not a curse— they are a blessing. I believe what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. The hard times make you stand a little taller, know yourself better, believe that you can survive. In the end, what doesn’t kill you makes you into a fighter, someone who can run the race of life with confidence.
God tells us this is true, so is it any surprise that science now has the proof to back it up? Because hard times and troubles are such a big part of people’s lives, scientists have been studying the effect that these things have on our bodies and minds. Researcher Mark Seery, a psychologist at the University at Buffalo in the U.S., said: ‘Serious events – like the death of a child or parent, a natural disaster, being physically attacked, experiencing sexual abuse, or being forcibly separated from your family – can cause psychological problems. In fact, some research has suggested that the best way to go through life is having nothing ever happen to you. But not only is that unrealistic, it’s not necessarily healthy.’
Mark Seery suggests, in fact, that those who go through difficult experiences are given a chance to develop an ability to cope with such situations in the future. “The idea is that negative life experiences can toughen people, making them better able to manage subsequent difficulties,” he said.
It is important, I think, to know that Dr. Seery isn’t saying that trauma and difficulties are easy and should be sought. If he were saying that I’d be the first to scoff, but instead he says that “negative events have negative effects”. He also adds: “I really look at this as being a silver lining. Just because something bad has happened to someone doesn’t mean they’re doomed to be damaged from that point on.”
It’s a true statement, and one that gives us much hope. The bad things in life are what make us stronger. They are what allow us to help another human being going through something similar. The hard times let you offer someone else an arm to lean on and a shoulder to cry on.
Is it any wonder then that the strongest people we know are often the people who have had to cope and deal with some of the hardest knocks in life? Think back to some of the greats. Many of them had rough childhoods and tragic circumstances in their lives, but they didn’t let those things bring them to their knees in defeat. They took those things and used them to fuel them.
Homes for girls are started by women who have been through the trauma. They don’t give up after it happens; they let the horror cause them to fight for others. Outreaches to families whose children are dying in the hospital stem from someone else’s pain. They want to be there to help you through the darkest moments. Cancer organizations are founded because someone’s loved one was diagnosed with this terrifying disease and they don't want other people to have to go through this uneducated and helpless. Instead of giving up, these people used their circumstances to help others, ultimately helping victims of tragedy to stay strong and stand on their feet once more.
When life seems like it is crashing in on all sides, keep your head above the water. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and sometimes the things we can't change end up changing us.
Doctor Seery’s report on adversity and resilience can be found in the December issue of the journal Current Directions in Psychological Science.