One of the best ways to learn about yourself is through adversity. Adversity always gets our attention. When we are in the fires of the furnace of trials, it can help burn off the dross and leave the pure metal. Former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat once said, “Great suffering builds up a human being and puts him in the range of self-knowledge.”
But too often, when the storm of adversity comes in, we have a tendency to hide. We resist the pain and seek to hide. We may build a fortress to prevent further adversity. Our attitude is like that from Sargent Schultz in Hogan’s Heroes. “I know nothing. I see nothing.” This is their response to hard times.
Yet, adversity can be a huge teacher to us. James Allen wrote in the book, As a Man Thinketh, “Circumstances do not make the man; it reveals him to himself.” Novelist Samuel Lover once wrote, “Circumstances are the rulers of the weak; but they are the instrument of the wise.” Yet, it is really easy to ignore adversity and fail to learn its lessons.
One of my fraternity brothers, Mark Taylor, used to love telling this story. A wealthy man had two sons. One was always sour on life, had a negative attitude, and complained about everything. The other one was always thankful, looked at the positives, and found the best in everything around him.
One Christmas, the father decided to do an experiment to see if he could change the attitude of either son by giving rewards or adversity. He gave the son with a sour attitude a roomful of toys. Every kind of neat toy, computer, and electronics device filled the room. The son with the great attitude, he filled his room full of horse manure.
On Christmas morning, the father told both sons that he had their presents in their rooms. Both boys joyfully ran to their rooms. After several hours, the father came up to the son’s room who always had the sour attitude. To his surprise, the son was sitting in the middle of his room crying. He was complaining about all the wonderful toys he was given and how he could not get everything to work. He could not assemble the toys, computers were not working, and the iPads were frozen. Even though he had all these wonderful gifts, still he continued to complain.
He went down the hall to the second son’s room. To the father’s surprise, the son was joyfully shoveling manure as fast as he could out the window. The father asked, “Why are you so happy?”
The son answered, “Because dad, with all this manure here, there has to be a pony in here somewhere!” Here is a picture of someone looking through the adversity to see the positive!
Adversary can teach you more than pleasure or success. Robert Browning Hamilton wrote a poem once about this.
I walked a mile with pleasure,
She chatted all the way.
She left me none the wiser,
With all she had to say.
I walked a mile with sorrow;
And never a word said she,
But oh the things I learned from her,
When sorrow walked with me.
In the end, the trial can be the best teacher to better understand ourselves, if we will choose to be educated by adversity.