So I know a lot of people may want to cringe just thinking about the idea that any kind of adversity can come with benefits. The term adversity, by definition, means a condition or circumstance that comes from hardship, misfortune, or bad luck. In life, from time to time, adversity does have a way of finding us, raining on our lives, sometimes in the worst way possible. It's painful, it's stressful, it hurts. Even the memory of something awful long ago can bring up these feelings right back to the surface again. So what good can adversity offer?
1) It can help bring us closer to one and other.
Adversity has a way of connecting us when we're down. Ever bond with a class-mate over disliking that teacher that assigned too much homework? Ever been to a support group? As the famous Mr. Roger's mother always noted, ever notice on TV how someone is always there helping the harmed and hurt when a disaster strikes? Each of these circumstances can have a way of creating a bond between people that helps them feel less alone, and that bond creates a strength to help people work through a very difficult situation. Have you ever desperately wanted to help someone going through a very hard time? That is your humanity stemming from and responding to adversity.
2) It is a message.
Adversity always brings some form of message, whether it is “something needs to change,” “a sacrifice needs to be made,” “it's time to really examine your values,” or “you'll be stronger if you succeed at this.” Sometimes the message is to accept, and then let go of the fact that a situation will never be like it once was. When we take the time to listen to what kind of message a harrowing situation brings, we have the chance to keep it from continuing to harm us. We already become forced to do things differently when we face something very tough. If we take the chance to do something that will reduce the problem, adjust our way of thinking about it, change the way we respond to it or do something that prevents it from happening again, we are applying a method of coping with the problem. A prime example of a few of these is the man who had lost his beloved dog and knew he could never replace her. He decided though, that he still loved animals and wanted to do something in his pet's memory. He chose to volunteer at the local animal shelter as a way to give back, and to ease the pain of his loss. He heard several messages, including what he needed to accept, what his values are, and what he was able to change. In the end, this was a new source of quality in his life.
3) It creates opportunity to make a change for the better.
Have you ever been frustrated by someone who called a bad situation a “learning experience?” Yes, it's annoying to hear, but yes, it also rings very true. It is hard to let go of things we lose, such as a lost dream, a lost job, a lost relationship. If we get stuck on being upset about what's gone, we miss out on the chance to create better circumstances for our own future. Last year, I found myself in a very stressful situation that continued to get worse. Fear of loss got in the way of me making a change that could really eliminate a lot of that stress. When the situation became too painful to bare, I had no choice but to make a change. One of the results of the change was having to let go of a job I had worked for eight years, and things about it that I loved dearly. Since then though, I've been able to move forward. I learned how many supportive people there are in my life, wanting to help me. I learned I have the ability to build skills I never dreamed of having. I learned that I could get through a very difficult situation and come out happier on the other side. Now, I'm working on helping people cope with some of the struggles that I've been through as part of my new job. Without my adversity, I would have never made some wonderful changes in my life.
Ultimately, adversity stinks. It's awful to have to go through it, but again, we can't avoid it. Sometimes, it's just a part of life. But it can make us stronger, closer, give us an important message, and in the end, we can create some good changes from it. Those are the good things that can come from adversity.