The New Year, 2017, has arrived with much trepidation. We have a new President taking office who is loathed, feared, or both, by many in our very polarized country. California is launching a new foster care “reform” wrought with flaws; so underfunded and ill thought out that it will take a miracle to produce any real reform. The majority of Americans are suffering from wage stagnation, with no indications from the corporate, business or public sectors of any relief or interest in fixing the problem. Our government has become an oligarchy, ruled by a few ultra-wealthy who have bought off our politicians. “Affordable Housing” has become an oxymoron, being unavailable and unachievable in most communities. America’s “safety net” is on the chopping block, including Socials Security, Medicare, healthcare and education. Congress doesn’t believe in global warming and wants to gut all of the controls to protect our air, water and environment. Nuclear proliferation is being proposed and long-term strategic alliances designed to keep the world safer, are in peril!
This isn’t exactly an encouraging picture, is it? But, it is all part of life. It is not hard to catalog the incredible challenges, threats and impending gloom and doom viewed over the epochs of time spanning human history. So, take comfort in the iconic words of Bob Dylan, “… For the times they are a changin’!” One thing we know for sure – what is today, won’t be tomorrow. Time is on our side.
Have you noticed – things don’t always go our way or to our liking? No one is immune from uncomfortable situations, ominous circumstances or stark adversity. The measure of a person’s character is how they respond! I have oft contemplated the words of William Shakespeare, “Let me embrace thee, sour adversity, for wise men say it is the wisest course.” Let’s explore this.
It would be very easy to read my first paragraph and become depressed, despondent, angry, or respond in any number of negative reactions. Unfortunately, that only exacerbates the situation. One could get drunk, stoned or sleep a lot, but that doesn’t change the situation. When the stupor or slumber has worn off, nothing has changed. Our response it not to Avoid it – it’s to Attack it! “Let me embrace thee, sour adversity...”
No, I do not mean we need to go on some angry rampage or get violent; this is no solution. We need to attack the situation with mental fortitude, resolve and a determination to prevail. Stephen Covey said it this way, “Just as we develop our physical muscles through overcoming opposition--such as lifting weights--we develop our character muscles by overcoming challenges and adversity.” 2017 is giving us the opportunity to develop Character! Well, everyday life gives us plenty of opportunity for this development, for that matter.
So, this is what I believe we all need to perfect in our efforts to embrace adversity and ominous circumstances.
First, it is important not to ruminate on these things. You can change nothing by brooding over or allowing circumstances to vex you. In fact, it is physiologically destructive to you, churning up your adrenal system which can produce all kinds of negative physiological effects. It is far better to set your mind on a positive path; focusing, instead, on that which is good, encouraging and hopeful. No matter how dark the situation, there is always a way to shine some light into it.
Second, understand what triggers your disappointment or anxiety. Disappointment is directly tied it to our passions and what we care about. The more we care about something, the greater our disappointment or anxiety when our vision, hope or goal is challenged. I am very passionate about seeing foster youth properly cared for and provided every opportunity for permanency and success. Consequently, I become anxious and disappointed when our foster care system fails to deliver what is needed. Martin Luther King Jr puts this kind of passion very adeptly, “There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep passion.”
Third, we must turn our “disappointment triggers” into priorities. Remember, disappointment is always a better emotional state than apathy or neutrality where the individual feels indifferent toward everything. Understanding our disappointments and anxieties should serve as a catalyst for reinvigorating and prioritizing our passions into positive action. Disappointment and angst should never become a wall; rather, it should be a door. This is the wisdom of embracing adversity.
Fourth, no matter how bleak our circumstances may be, we must always be an encourager to others. Humans need comfort and encouragement from others to move forward in their lives. Another apropos favorite quote of mine is from Ulysses S. Grant: “The friend in my adversity I shall always cherish most. I can better trust those who helped to relieve the gloom of my dark hours than those who are so ready to enjoy with me the sunshine of my prosperity.”
Finally, be patient and persistent; positive change is always a process of time. The disappointments and anxieties of today will most likely be different tomorrow. We have recessions, we have prosperity, and political winds are ever shifting. Even if we never achieve a vision, dream or goal, we can realize personal satisfaction and fulfillment knowing that we pursued our passions fanatically. We must disallow disappointment and anxiety from crippling or halting our pursuits; always mindful that the times they are a changin’...