We are just beginning the year, and I wonder how many people have already given up on their New Year’s resolutions. My guess is that half of you reading this, that actually made resolutions, have stored them away until next year. Before January, these seemed to be pretty important and worthwhile goals. Was your goal to lose weight, reconnect with family members, or rid yourself of an addiction, like smoking marijuana?
On the other hand, some of you have stuck with your resolutions and have been willing to go through the “pain of change” to get what you want. I applaud you, and hope that you continue to succeed with your goals, no matter how difficult it may become. Change, such as getting rid of unhealthy habits like smoking marijuana, is not an easy task. It requires consistent effort and fortitude in the beginning. Even though it gets easier over time, most people are not willing to make the sacrifices in the beginning to get to the end result.
I am writing this because of an experience I recently had with a patient. I always assume patients that come to our office are there for one reason; to get better. However, some people lack the belief or desire to do so. Although some have just lost hope, there are some that are there to simply check one more thing “that didn’t work” off their list of reasons why they can’t get better.
Although I consider myself a very sympathetic person, I have a very difficult time understanding or dealing with excuses. This is true with the small things and the very large, such as a habit which interferes with your life and the lives of people around you. This particular patient who provoked this article proceeded to regurgitate all the reasons why he couldn’t get better versus the reasons why he could, or why he even wanted to improve.
This may be a surprise to you, but most of these were adversities that were created by him. Am I actually saying that we should begin taking responsibility for our actions and stop blaming other things for our situation? To a degree, yes. It is very difficult to improve in life if you are constantly pointing your finger at anything and everything, other than yourself. We should always look inward before looking outward when wanting to make change.
However, there are outside challenges, not created by us, which we need to learn to overcome. Even if the circumstance or challenge we are facing cannot be changed, we need to somehow find a way to embrace it to our best ability. This is not always easy, yet we have examples of people throughout the world facing hardships and very difficult situations that not only have overcome them, but utilize their misfortunes to help other people. We sit in awe of these individuals, and wonder how they do it. And as we should admire them, you need to realize that you are of the same origin, the same species, and have all the ingredients to do the same.
I have always been uncertain of the accuracy of the adage “everything happens for a reason.” Is it that, or is it just simply a characteristic of human behavior to optimistically see the good in everything? However, one thing is certainly true; adversity is a part of life. In fact, adversity is a necessary part of life. It may not seem fair at times, but situations such as these allow us to grow as individuals. Does that sound too cliché for you? Ask anyone who has overcome a difficult situation if they became more empowered or less empowered. I am certain you will find a consistent answer.
In the bible, Paul speaks of “a thorn in his side.” Although no person actually knows what this “thorn” in Paul’s side was, he even admitted that it had its purpose. The same applies to you as well. We all have our thorns. Some of you view your “thorns” as you do the thorns of a rose. You view them as something that is there to prick you, ultimately causing you to bleed. However, let’s take a closer look at the true purpose of a rose’s thorns.
The most commonly understood purpose of a rose’s thorns are for protection. It is nature’s clever way of protecting the rose from being eaten by the outside world. Your adversity is no different in that it teaches you many things about life and about people which, if you learn, will ultimately help protect you as well.
However, thorns are not primarily for protection. Nature forms them in a particular shape for clinging and climbing. The thorn’s shape prevents the rose from sliding back under its own weight. Our personal thorns can provide the same function by preventing us from “sliding back” into situations we know should be avoided. Sadly, most people ignore this purpose.
Most importantly is the thorn’s ability to help the rose climb to greater heights. This way the rose can get to higher elevations where there is the most sunlight. From this high vantage point, they can then spread over greater distances.
You are no different than a rose. Your challenges are your own personal thorns, and when utilized properly, you too will begin to see the world differently.