Hard times. Everybody has them. Heartbreaks, disappointments, money too tight for comfort, our head doesn’t match our heart, illness in ourselves, illness or distress in our loved ones, people besmirching our character. Hard times happen to everyone. There is no immunity. Rockefeller is reported to have half jokingly offered half his kingdom to his chauffeur to swap Mr R’s weak and painful stomach for the chauffeurs strong and healthy one. No immunity from troubles in this life.
Hard times are coming, and hard times have passed. We have a 100% success rate at getting through difficult situations thus far. We can do difficult things. Sometimes we don’t want to, but we can.
The difference between difficult times making or breaking us is how it changes us. How do we adapt? Darwinism isn’t the survival of the fittest as is so often quoted but rather the survival of the most adaptable.
So, how does adversity change us?
Sometimes we become brittle, and brittle things snap easily with very little pressure applied. Brittle responses are short, sharp, hurtful to our self or others. Brittle hearted responders confirm their bias that everyone or everything is against them. There is confirmation everywhere that they are right.
Sometimes we become gentle. Gentle things can appear to be defenseless. Some try to take advantage of gentle responders. Confirmational bias reinforces the notion to a gentle person that the world can be a good place. A famous quote states that “a soft answer turneth away wrath”. Frequently, meeting hostility with calmness or treating people how they would want to be treated whether they deserve it or not brings about a suitable outcome.
If we have been ill or broken hearted, we get to decided how we react.
It takes less than 90 seconds for the chemicals generated in a surge of anger to flush through the body. If a person can breathe through a moment of anger, keep cool and not rise to the bait, the incidents physical response will be over in a minute and a half. However if a person dwells on the situation and feels the surge of anger again, the clock starts over.
Saying “I am this way because I had a hard life” or “I am this way because my parents are this way” or “because I am a redhead” underplays and undermines our decision making rights and privileges.
We get to choose. Every time. The more often we choose one way rather than another, the faster we develop a habit. But we get to choose. No matter what, we decide how we respond. We are free to change our mind at any point.
Choosing gentleness wouldn’t make a person weak. “No” is still in the vocabulary. There is still a resolve and grit. There isn’t a requirement to be a fall guy.
We can do difficult things. Heartaches over time become manageable. Wrongs can be overcome. Anger can pass. There is no reason to choose one response over the other. Just, what shape do we want our life to take. What manner of men ought we to be?
I am trying to learn to be gentler with people. There is a propensity for me to be yes:no, right:wrong, do it or step aside. Often there isn’t always time to say things twice so directness is a useful tool. But is the directness brittle or gentle? That is what I ask myself.
I wonder if either one or the other is more correct. Is there as much correctness in retreating into hermitude after a grief and yelling at the neighbourhood kids or expanding in to empathy?
There is no definitive answer. I find from personal experience that on the rare occasions I am having a hard time, it passes quicker or my ability to carry the problem increases if I make an effort, no matter how hard and no matter how concerted the effort has to be, to check in with those I love and see how they are doing. It helps.
The upshot is that I believe anyone who is free from a traumatic brain injury gets to choose how they would like to respond, even if that choice leads to a relearning or exploration of options and skills not yet at our disposal.
We get to decide. What a gift!