To give us a starting place, let me take a motivational quote by Robert Schuller and examine some of the components of uplifting troubles.
“We learn courage when we face danger; we learn patience when we endure suffering; we learn tenderness when we taste pain; we learn to prize good friends when false ones forsake us; we treasure health when illness strikes and we learn to prize freedom when we are in danger of losing it!”
Courage and Danger
What can be said of courage? Do we practice courage so that when we meet danger we are able to respond with courage?
There are a host of behaviors we can practice. We can practice with perseverance and dedication to learn to play a musical instrument with skill. The more we practice, the better we become. The amount of practice on a consistent basis is the prerequisite to becoming an accomplished player. We, in fact, determine how skilled we become in the sense that if we choose not to practice, we recognize that we will not move beyond the point at which we stopped.
But practice does not relate to courage. There are no skills sets, that I am aware of, that can be learned to acquire courage. Courage is something that we know not until we are placed into a situation that calls us to be courageous.
On the other hand, we come to know courage in ourselves when we are put into danger, or when someone we love is put into harms’ way, or we demonstrate courage when we forsake our own safety to rescue another who is in danger. Do these examples bring us closer to understanding courage?
To me, courage is not a specific set of skills that can be taught. Courage instead is the combined elements of the human condition. These combined elements are composed of caring, compassion, service, kindness, and love. We have all heard about or read about acts of courage; acts of courage demonstrated by police personnel, by fireman, by paramedics or soldiers. But, we also have read and heard stories of demonstrated courage by people who are normally not required to put their lives into dangerous situations. For example, the stranger who courageously puts their life at risk to pull a person out of raging waters; or a person who enters a burning building to save a trapped child or a man or woman; a person who dashes across lanes of thundering traffic to propel a child out of harms’ way.
Each of the situations described called for a courageous act; a courageous act that wasn’t expected; an act of courage that placed the courageous person in danger.
I believe that these acts of bravery by those who have not accepted dangerous jobs, like a soldier, police or firefighters, demonstrate the true nature of courage. It is the demonstrated behavior that is unprepared, that is not expected, and that reflects the inner most extension of love beyond that which declares true unselfishness
Suffering and Patience
I’m sure that many of you who are reading this article have endured suffering of one kind or another at some point in your life. You may even be experiencing suffering at this point in time. So, the question to be answered is how can suffering be uplifting or beneficial?
Let me attempt to explain why suffering may be an uplifting experience by approaching it backwards. For those people who have never experienced any kind of suffering it is difficult to see what I may be speaking of. But, let’s move one anyway.
To suffer means that you experienced, at some point, the lack thereof. If you have never suffered, there is no experience of pain, or sorrow. Without the experience of suffering, there is no way to understand its’ impact, nor, is there any way to experience the elation when suffering stops.
Here’s a simple example that may help explain what I am talking about.
You, as a young child, wanted to learn to skate so you could play hockey with all your friends who gathered together every weekend a a local outdoor rink. Your parents bought you a pair of skates, got them sharpened and your father or mother accompanied you to the local outdoor rink. Now, we all are painfully aware that learning to skate is not a one off experience. It takes a lot of practice and perseverance especially when you want to be able to both skate well and play hockey.
But, here’s what happened. Every weekend when you went out with one of your parents to learn to skate, there was always a group of kids using the ice surface. And, among this group of kids were several of your school mates who were very proficient skaters. The painful part of your attempts to learn to skate did not come from falling on the ice, as we all did, but from the constant ridicule when you fell from the rest of the kids on the ice. With every fall came laughter or snickering. You couldn’t wait to get off the ice but you couldn’t when you wanted to because your parent kept insisting you try again and again.
The unfortunate thing that happened was that you gave up learning how to skate. When you were asked by your parent if you wanted to go to the rink, you’d use every excuse you could think of to avoid experiencing the on-going ridicule you knew would occur.
So, what is the positive in suffering ridicule, if any? That depends on how you view it. You could become cynical towards your own abilities; you could also adopt using ridicule towards others all throughout your adult life because you had been ridiculed. Or, you could turn your suffering ridicule into a positive by ensuring that others you meet now and later throughout your entire adult life never have to endure ridicule. This attitude means that you become known as the assister, the helper, the giver, the encourager, the accepting friend, and the patient teacher.
Normal To Abnormal
Courage and suffering. How do they relate to one another?
Each occurrence in life can be viewed cynically. Life’s events can push you to be cautious or to act with courage. You can attempt to hide, to cower, or to let others experience suffering alone without support or friendship. Or, you can use life’s events to teach you to be a different person; to be wiser, to embrace challenges; to offer comfort, support and friendship to others.
Life isn’t easy. We can take the low road, or we can choose to take the high road. We can be uplifted by troubles or we can choose doom and gloom.
Life is full of learning opportunities if we want to learn; it is full of challenges that can be overcome if we choose to see adversity as a catalyst to moving forward; and life is our chance to leave a legacy of compassion, caring, love and comfort if we choose to do so.
What do you choose to make of your life?
Inspirational Quotes for Reflection:
“One of the best things about finally showing courage is that you inspire those around you to do the same.” Olivia Benjamin
“Have courage enough to accept what you can not change, but yet courageous enough to stand up and fight for what you can.” Robert M. Hensel
“When we come into contact with the other person, our thoughts and actions should express our mind of compassion, even if that person says and does things that are not easy to accept. We practice in this way until we see clearly that our love is not contingent upon the other person being lovable.” Thich Nhat Hanh
“That best portion of a good man’s life; his little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and love.” William Wordsworth
“The key to thriving with accomplishing any goal would be dependent on working with dedication, yet lots of people do not interpret just how important it really is!” Sarfraz Sohail, How To Accomplish Any Goal
“No person can become strong without struggle, without the effort of pitting himself against trouble and hardship. And to meet and deal with life creatively we will always need to be alert and thoughtful and to think in a positive manner, constantly rallying personality forces into effective and desirable action.” Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, The Positive Principle Today
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