One of the most important mindsets all heroes share is how they view the painful experiences they encounter. Obstacles, setbacks, and disappointments are a part of life. I’m not here to argue that life is always easy. However, I am here to tell you that many people view adversity the wrong way.
Eventually, all heroes learn an important lesson: challenges aren’t abnormal occurrences. They’re a natural part of life. Adversity isn’t meant to simply break us down. It is meant for us to overcome. And through overcoming, we become better. Just like lifting weights builds physical strength, the mental and emotional pain we experience can build our spiritual strength…if we let it.
All of the great stories humanity has told across time echo this lesson over and over. From the most ancient of mythologies to the most recent superhero movie, we continuously strive to reinforce the fact that struggle makes us strong. Sadly, today many of us miss the message, because we’re buried under a tide of negative news and the cynical views of others. We forget that we can tune out that noise when it becomes overwhelming.
We need to fight the perception that life’s pain is pointless. Because by turning your pain into purpose, you can tap into a deep well of strength and personal accomplishment.
My “Hammer and Anvil” Story
One of my most painful moments happened when I was a young teenager. I’d done something to ignite my father’s infamously short temper. To try and escape his anger, I locked myself in the tiny bathroom of our house. I crouched on the cold tile floor as he pounded on the door.
Then, the door exploded in a haze of splintered wood. My father burst in, carrying a belt. I remember how the light glinted off the buckle as he raised it up. I lost count of how many times he hit me with it as I cried, trying to contract myself into the smallest possible target. Finally, my mother intervened to stop that particular beating, but it wasn’t the last time it would happen.
I’m not telling you this story for your pity. Many people have been through much worse. My point in sharing that moment is to tell you I held on to that painful memory for years, nursing it like a wound that wouldn’t heal. But the only reason it wouldn’t heal is because I was treating it the wrong way.
It took me years to realize I could see that beating as something to overcome, rather than suffering forever as a victim. I’m not saying my father was at all justified in his actions. Nor am I saying we should be thankful for those that abuse us.
Rather, we can choose to see painful events as “hammer and anvil” moments. Think about the times in your life when you’ve felt beaten down or betrayed, saddened or hurt. Then, remember the fact that you survived those events, and give yourself massive credit for overcoming them. Just like a blacksmith pounding a piece of iron into stronger steel, you’ve been forged into something powerful.
For me, once I decided to take pride in the fact that I went on to succeed in life despite abuse, everything changed. I was able to let go of the anger I was harboring and move on with my life. It’s important to note that you should always let yourself feel pain when it happens and not suppress it. Emotions like sadness, anger, and depression are a natural part of the process. Let them flow freely, and remember that the feelings will pass.
I challenge you to not only look back at your past, but also to observe your present and look at the challenges you’re facing right now. Take a step back and ask yourself: how can I see this differently? How is this an opportunity to overcome and grow?
Overcoming life’s pain is part of your inner hero’s journey. Hold on to the wisdom you’ve gained from adversity. That way, you’ll make the most of the time you spend between the hammer and the anvil.