Strength from Misfortune

Think of all the major events over the last couple of years. How many of them were planned for? If you could go through them all over again, how many of them would you choose to endure again?

For many, lives were upended. Thoughts of prosperity went out the window. Even the thoughts of returning to normal are dim. Will things ever go back to the way they were? Probably not. And the new normal, what will that look like? Like the old or a substandard version of it?

Those who know what is good for you will say to not despair. Things will get better. But should you trust external sources of manufactured hope? Do they really know what’s good for you, or is having you believe it only good for them?

With all the misfortune that has taken place there is a real question you should ask. What have you learned? No doubt, we have been through some rough times. Those rough times are only one wave amid a turbulent ocean. When this wave passes, another will take its place only to be followed by more waves. And as the first one battered you, when all became dark and the depths of despair reached out to touch your soul, what did you learn?

It is a crime to despair. We must learn to draw from misfortune the means of future strength.

Winston Churchill

Maybe in the moment, it was okay to close the shutters and pull the blanket tighter around you. Maybe the extra sugar and the alcohol gave you a temporary escape from the present danger. But those temporary pleasures are fleeting. They will in time lose their luster, and you will be confronted with a choice: either find a harder drug to escape with or wake up and face reality. To wake up is to evolve. It is to adapt to the times and learn how to survive and how to thrive. It is to learn how to swim in an ocean that will gladly swallow you up.

Do you believe in God? Good. That means you have a purpose in this world. And that purpose is not to huddle in despair. Throw off the blankets. Open the blinds and let the light in. Let the misfortune be a lesson. Let it be the catalyst for a stronger you.


Feature photo by Shane on Unsplash

Something Did Happen

I was walking up the stairs to my office. About halfway up, my toe hit the edge of the step. My hands shot out to grab the rails. Just in time. If I would have missed, I would have gone tumbling down the metal stairs and onto the factory floor.

Once I gathered myself and regained my balance, I did the usual “every time I stumble” move. I took the dreaded look around to see if anybody was watching. After the all-clear, I resumed my ascent up the steps and acted as if nothing had happened.

Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened.

Winston Churchill

There are times I get stuck in my belief systems. The things I was told were true, I accepted. I didn’t do the research or ask the right questions. When I read or heard something contrary to my “supposed” truths, I would dismiss it as fake or too far-fetched. Occasionally, I would stumble on something that really challenged my beliefs, something not as easily dismissed. And when this happened, which lately has occurred more than a few times, I am faced with a choice. Do I, like stumbling on the stairs, move on as if nothing happened? Or do I pause and wonder? What was it that caused me to stumble? Is there a truth here that I need to discover? Do I need to do some research and evaluate those findings?

There is no doubt that I have many preconceived biases. When I see the error of one, I have a decision to make. What will I do? And the same goes for you when you cross the threshold that brings uncertainty to your belief systems, you must decide what you will do.


Feature photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Justice 2/20/2019

A man does what he must – in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers and pressures – and that is the basis of all human morality. -Winston Churchill

It is time that we all step up to the plate.

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The Virtue of Justice

What does it mean to live a just life? If right thoughts and right actions equal righteousness, can we be righteous? Our hope is that others treat us with justice. This of course is no guarantee, but it does not change our responsibilities. It is our responsibility to be honest in our deeds and in our words, and that we treat others with justice.

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Strength to Carry the Load

I remember the early days of road marching. My rucksack, loaded with all my gear, was heavy. The rifle I carried got heavier with every step I took. My muscles ached. My feet hurt. As the strain in my back and neck crept toward what I thought was the “unbearable” threshold, my thoughts turned to wishing I had a lighter load, wishing I had a shorter distance to travel. “If only…” was always in my mind.

“If you are going through hell, keep going.” –Winston Churchill

What should I have been thinking? What should I have been praying for? Not that I had less to carry, but for the strength to continue on. I should have been praying for the courage to keep going. If I could have got all the negative wishes out of my head, I may have actually enjoyed those forced marches.

An amazing thing happened as I continued to march over the weeks. The more I carried that weight, the stronger I became. In time, with much repetition, that burden was no longer unbearable. The load wasn’t lighter, my ability to carry it was stronger.

Be patient and tough; one day this pain will be useful to you. -Ovid

Last week, I had a conversation with a friend concerning a professional trial he was enduring. One of his department heads, bitter for not getting the same promotion, was continually trying to undermine his authority. Upset with the previous command, this department head is determined to continue adding a layer of toxicity to the new regime. As frustrating as it is for my friend, this complex relationship has a few benefits that can make him stronger for the future. It is a constant test with many eyes watching his every move. He has to be impeccable in his behavior and conduct.

As I listened to my friend discuss his trials, I thought of the ones I am closest to that are going through their own set of trials. I considered loved ones who are going through some of their roughest times physically, financially, and emotionally. And then I thought of Job. Do you remember the story of Job.

Job had a good life. He had a good wife, healthy children and close friends. He was doing well financially and really wasn’t lacking in any area of life. On what seems like a whim, God allowed Satan to test Job. So Satan took it everything from Job. Gone were the children and gone was the wealth. This would have been enough to destroy most people, but not Job. His response, “The Lord gives and He takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). Satan thought it was too easy, so he went after Job’s health. Even after this, Job remained faithful.

Not many of us have ever endured the level of suffering that Job went through. But the trials we go through are real enough. They are hard and often unfair. Nobody deserves an unwarranted enemy or a physical ailment that takes away the joy of living. But we have it, even if it is unfair. The temptation would be to pray that it all just goes away, that we could live a life free of stress and hardship. But our lives would be of little strength and substance if we lived it under those terms. Instead we should pray for the strength to endure. We should pray for the courage to withstand the trial knowing that we could come out on the other side victorious. Maybe a little scarred but still victorious.

Don’t wish it were easier, wish you were better. Don’t wish for less problems, wish for more skills. Don’t wish for less challenge, wish for more wisdom. –Jim Rohn

Hard Life or Easy Life

It’s a new year of school (Alec is starting the 1st grade) and with it comes a new set of challenges. Last year in Kindergarten, Alec’s performance issues were talking, playing, and doing cartwheels at the wrong time. Coming into the second week of school, talking when he should not, has turned into his first challenge. Yesterday, he had four warnings for talking which led to not completing one of his tasks.

Growing up, I don’t remember being much of a talker. As I got older, not talking turned out to be a social negative. When others were building valuable social skills, I was locked away in my own thoughts. Now I am constantly waging a battle to become more approachable, with a positive demeanor, as opposed to my normal serious countenance. Often, I have to remind myself to be more engaging, to talk more.

I asked Alec why he was talking so much. He said, “I am trying to make friends.” Now that puts me in a conundrum. Not doing what you are supposed to in school should warrant some form of punishment. Building strong social skills that can enhance your personal and professional life as an adult, however, may be a more valuable lesson than any traditional education can provide. What Alec needs is balance. He needs to be able to do both and to do each at the appropriate time.

Sometimes it is not enough to do our best, we must do what is required. –Winston Churchill

The Punishment.

In Army Basic Training, a young soldier quickly learns the consequences of not doing what he is supposed to do. Usually this is in the form of physical exertion. My platoon in Basic underwent a lot of physical exertion. In the beginning, we did our best. It was never good enough, and we paid for it in our sweat and tears. Towards the end, we learned that doing what was required far outweighed our best intentions. In doing what was required, our extracurricular physical exertion was considerably reduced.

50 Push-ups, 50 Sit-ups, 5 total minutes Wall Sit

We broke Alec’s punishment down into a simple circuit of the three above exercises. 5 repetitions each of push-ups and sit-ups followed by a wall sit for as long as he could hold it. Except the last 10 seconds of the wall sit, this workout was not too difficult for Alec. The goal of this punishment was not to break him down. It wasn’t to psychologically scare him out of talking again. The purpose was to remind him that there are consequences for our actions. As long as he doesn’t get into trouble, I encourage him to talk. More importantly, we must do what is required. In this case, completing all tasks.

Hard choices, easy life. Easy choices, hard life. –Jerzy Gregorek, author of The Happy Body and legendary Olympic weightlifter.

The Lesson.

We are always making choices. The fruits of our present choices are always borne out in the future. Looking back again on my younger years, I made many easy choices. Every time I chose credit instead of cash, cheap and easy foods instead of high quality “fuel,” or laziness over action, I paid a very expensive price at later date. All the easy choices made my life much harder. Some of these choices I am still paying for today.

When Alec chose to talk instead of completing his tasks, he was making the easy choices. A hard choice would have been wait for the right time to talk. As a result of his easy choice, he paid for it through exercise. This may sound harsh to some, but it is a relatively small price for the value of the lesson. If he can learn to do the hard things now, he can possibly have a much easier life in the future. Many parents want the best for their children. In many cases, this results in the parents enabling their children in a futile attempt at making their lives easier. But gifts are often under-appreciated and easily squandered compared to possessions earned. I want Alec to have an easy life, but I can’t give it to him. He has to earn it by making the hard choices now.