Many students at my martial arts school are practicing the art of thankfulness, suggested by our fearless leader. Using Facebook as a medium, the challenge is to post something you’re thankful for, every day until the end of the year. So far a number of people have joined in, and I hope more will.

I’m watching what everyone else posts about — many good things, like family and friends and health and abundance. All good. I read those things in the midst of a tough, stressful week personally, and I’m trying to make a different choice: to be thankful for hardships, trouble, and the struggles my life consists of right now.

What? I imagine you saying. Thankful for hardship? Isn’t that what we need to be thankful in spite of?

I hear you, and I don’t completely disagree. I think we do need to be thankful in spite of hardships, sometimes; I think we need to practice focusing on the good things, a lot of the time. But I’m also serious about being thankful for those same hardships. Not in a masochistic “Ooh, please sir, may I have another” kind of way. I don’t suggest one needs to enjoy the pain of hard times, and I for one certainly don’t. But that’s a separate thing from thankfulness.

Think about it like this: when did you learn more, from times of struggle or times when everything was easy? When life was a fight or when it was all smooth sailing? Hardship is a tough teacher, but a good one. I can say very honestly that I’ve learned so much more from hard times than easy ones.

I’m not only talking about all-encompassing miserableness, either. When life is mostly great, except maybe for this one thing that is tough, the principle still stands. That one area of struggle has so much potential to teach you, and not just about the specific thing you’re struggling with. It can teach you important stuff about yourself (like, how do you react when faced with something tough? When you’re under stress? When you’re scared, frustrated, or angry?) It can teach you how to cope with hard stuff, how to tackle hard problems, how to break them down and strategize, how to look for help when necessary, how to not give up. All of those things are universal lessons, and we only get them by facing up to hard things.

I want to be very clear in saying that hard times hurt, and that’s no fun — I’m not at all glad for that, and I really hate to see people I love deal with that, even more than I hate dealing with it myself. I’m not thankful for the pain of the struggle. But for the effects of experiencing the struggle — the lessons, the internal sense of power, the will to be able to face anything — those are what I’m thankful for. That’s why I’m making a point of being thankful for hard times.


2 comments so far

  1. wushupa on

    I agree with you 100%

  2. Laurie on

    Yes and yes and yes. The struggles also give one a perspective with potentially the ability to appreciate the good stuff by knowing what the other side can feel like.

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