Wither or Grow, We Choose

I’ve had a two conversations with two different friends in the past 24 hours and realized life hasn’t been easy for them lately, either. We’ve all had eerily similar stories about major struggles happening in all of our lives right now. On one hand, it’s nice to have someone to talk with because they get it but on the other hand, I hate hearing that they are going through tough times.

But I know we’re all going to make it to the other side of what we’re dealing with and we’re going to be okay. Why? Because that is how life goes. Some of us struggle more than others but perhaps that could be a blessing. Because really, what sort of depth could someone possibly have if they sail through life unscathed. Show me someone who has had an smooth as glass life and I’ll show you the most boring person in the world.

Sweet Jesus. We wouldn’t have 99% of the art in this world if we didn’t people with some serious soul damage. Writers, painters, sculptors, musicians, and even photographers all have some sort of dysfunction and they let the art be the catharsis.

We struggle, we suffer, we endure, and then we grow. Or we don’t. But I believe we choose the condition we are in when we shake off the dust. I’m not sure if I’ve shared much about father but he’s an alcoholic (I’m sure I’ve mentioned that at least once.) He has been all of my life. He fought in Vietnam and came back a very messed up man. From day one of reentry he struggled and has been struggling ever since. He’s the perfect example of someone who didn’t grow from his traumatic experience. I know that what he went through was horrific and extremely difficult to get past but I still think he had a choice. He could’ve chosen professional help and not the bottle.

I love how author Shawn Achor frames this in the latest chapter of The Happiness Advantage I read this morning. You either have PTSD, Post-Traumatic Stress Distress, or you have PTG, Post-Traumatic Growth. It may be a bad health diagnosis, natural disaster, a heinous crime or loss of a loved one but those horrible things can also spark some profound personal growth. How many E:60 or SC Featured episodes have you watched where the person has gone through something horrible but they found a way to use that experience to impact their own lives or others in a positive way? That’s what I’m talking about. We either wither or we grow. It’s impossible to stay the same person as before so it has to be one or the other.

I truly believe we are meant to go through these hard things so that we come out the other side changed for the better. Yes, we will have more scars, some visible but most not, but we’ll be transformed beings from within. We are meant to grow from these experiences and, honestly, we should welcome them to a certain degree because with them comes enlightenment, clarity, gratitude, purpose, grace, and strength, just to name a few. Don’t those things sound like answers to the age-old question, “What do you want out of life?”

No more resisting the struggle. Let’s embrace it, endure it, suffer even, but always, always recognize it for what it really is…a chance to grow.