Capitalizing on Adversity


Adversity develops your character just as weight training develops your muscles.

There is enormous positive power in adversity. Wouldn’t it be great if you really believed that? Well, it’s true. Adversity is what shapes and molds your character. As James teaches us in the New Testament, “…count it all joy when you fall into various trials…” Trying to avoid adversity is like trying to avoid life. If you are somehow able to hide from adversity, you are very unlikely to really be living. And if you never had tough times, you would never really appreciate the great times. What would triumph mean to you if it were not partnered with strain and struggle?

We often expend so much excess energy attempting to avoid adversity that when it finally comes, we are too exhausted to deal with it creatively. The 19th century success pioneer, Orison Swett Marden wrote, “The sculptor will chip off all unnecessary material to set free the angel. Nature will chip and pound us remorsefully to bring out our possibilities. She will strip us of wealth, humble our pride, humiliate our ambition, let us down from the ladder of fame, will discipline us in a thousand ways, if she can develop a little character. Everything must give way to that. Wealth is nothing. Position is nothing. Fame is nothing. Character is everything.”

Adversity develops your character just as weight training develops your muscles. Like weight training, adversity is not all that enjoyable when you are in the middle of it. But you do like the results it produces. Weight training speeds up your metabolism, and makes you look and feel better. It makes you stronger and more resilient to accidents and all sorts of trauma. Your physical muscles become stronger when confronted with resistance and the same is true for the muscles in your mind, spirit, and character. Welcome these struggles as you would greet your personal trainer walking into the gym.

Adversity comes in all shapes and sizes and it has many names: hardship, difficulty, obstacle, setback, crisis, failure or suffering…Regardless of what you call it, it is adversity all the same. Adversity plays no favorites and may strike with equal vengeance upon your business, your marriage, your health, your family, or any other corner of your life. According to Goethe, “Character develops itself in the full stream of life.” Consider for a moment that the biggest problem you are now facing might just be exactly what you need the most to chisel your character so that you become perfectly prepared to reach your most important goals.

Could this possibly be right? Maybe it would be useful to consider the difficulties you face as part of your ongoing “Personalized Character Curriculum”. If you do, this outlook might drive you to find the lesson, the wisdom, the opportunity, or any other blessing that could transform the entire situation into something productive and valuable. Interpreting adversity as a strength-builder drains much of the negative energy out of it and releases latent powers that otherwise would not be tapped.

When you view adversity as an ally, it begins to benefit you in unforeseen ways. Remember, the presence of tension, conflict, and difficulty indicates that growth is trying to take place. When you view this adversity as natural and normal, in fact, even necessary, it empowers you to take advantage of the power inherent in it. There is enormous power in adversity…when you look for it.

How do you handle adversity?

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