Every Adversity is an Opportunity to Display Character

The last thing you need to hear from me is the old adage “Adversity Builds Character.”  Truth be told, sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t.  Truth be told, too, adversity isn’t something any of us ever look forward to, are ever going to look forward to, and that’s not going to change, no matter what I tell you re facing and overcoming it.  No, I want to talk about something else.

I want to talk about the choices which present themselves when adversity rears its ugly head and strikes, usually when you least expect it: (1) roll over and play dead or angrily, fearfully struggle like a zebra in the clutches of a ferocious crocodile as you battle your adversity in full panic mode; or (2) deal with it in a calm state of equanimity, poise, displaying true character.  Honestly, it’s a simple choice and it’s yours to make.  The great irony, of course, is that your best chance to defeat the adversity is the latter choice.

Alas, surrender or angry, frightful, panicky struggle is the choice most people make, which is a pity, really.  Surrender is a choice that garners little respect—from yourself or from the world around you—and angry, frightful, panicky struggle causes the people who love you to worry about you, go to extremes to sooth your wounded psyche as they watch you disintegrate right before their eyes.  Is that what you want?  To look into your spouse’s red eyes and see how frightened she/he is about your state of mind, your health, in some cases your very life?

The question it really comes down to is, Are you going to succumb to the pressure the adversity causes, or not?  Think of all the professional athletes you’ve watched performing in the clutch, at the moment of truth, when the game, tournament, or match was on the line.  There are those who freeze up completely, are through before they even begin lining up the putt, and then there are those who eat the moment up, possess a calmness about them which shocks you because your palms are the ones sweating.  Jack Nicklaus needing an 18-foot putt on the 72nd hole to win the Masters Tournament; Joe Montana leading the 49ers 80 yards down the field in the final two minutes to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat in a playoff game; Bill Mazeroski’s walk-off home run in the 1960 World Series….

Fifteen years ago I got off an airplane in Atlanta, went to the bathroom and was shocked to see blood in my urine; a few days later I was told I had kidney cancer.  I contemplated my mortality.  Nicki couldn’t believe how calm I was.  I’d like to tell you it was instinctive, but that would be a lie; it was nothing of the kind.  I made a conscious choice.  I wanted to practice what I preach.  I took it as an opportunity to display character, which I knew would give me the best chance to become a cancer survivor.

Remember these words: every adversity is an opportunity to display character.  Do you have a story to tell re displaying character during a tough time in your life?  Care to share it with us?