From the title of this post, I reckon you can tell I am not a fan of this well-known and often used aphorism. I watched an old episode of Hell’s Kitchen the other day with my husband and one of the participants in the show said it to another participant who had broken down crying, which is what prompts me to pen some words on this particular thread.
For whatever reason, this aphorism seems to me to be close cousins of another unfortunately common saying: If I can do it, you can do it.
At face value and generally speaking: both sayings are nonsense.
Have I mentioned lately: words matter?
It would be much more accurate to say: What doesn’t kill us may make us stronger. Because the thing is: sometimes, maybe even oftentimes, the challenges/hardships/struggle/turmoil/or trauma we face serves as a means to shut us down, and armor us up against a world we deem as out to get us.
the success rate of the oldest residential drug & alcohol treatment facility in the world.
of people stay sober for a year after they leave.
And it’s the highest success rate of any treatment center in the w h o l e world.
*Data from the book A Million Little Pieces by James Frey, published in 2003.
One of the most recent studies on recidivism rates – which most often refers to the rate at which a person relapses back into criminal behavior after being released from prison – showed that 67.8% of people were rearrested within 3-years of being released from prison, within 5-years that number increases to 76.6%. And of those prisoners, a little more than half were arrested by the end of the first year of being released.
I often ponder why it’s so hard to break our cycles of detrimental behaviors and habits. These are more extreme examples, of course, but the thread is the same for all of us. We all have a hard time letting go of the suffering we’ve grown strangely accustomed to. Even when we know what we’re doing is not working. Even when we’re miserable. Even when we’re crippled by shame and guilt and fear.
A common deterrent towards making positive changes that I’ve heard often from people, in a variety of contexts, involves the deeply rooted and long-held view that they’re broken, un-fixable, damaged beyond repair. My husband used to think he was one of those people. I have at least two friends and a family member I can think of that feel this way, too. And it makes sense to me that if we think we are broken then there’s little sense in trying to change course – because there’s a core belief that nothing will work.
“Attachment to views is the greatest impediment to spiritual growth.” -Thich Nhat Hanh
A few days ago I finished the book I had been reading (Find the Good, Unexpected Life Lessons from a Small-Town Obituary Writer by Heather Lende). Not knowing which book to start next, and having two of special interest that I recently purchased for our local mindfulness center library, I decided to do something I don’t usually do and started both books at the same time. One of which is Sister Dang Nghiem’s book entitled Mindfulness as Medicine, the other is Silence by Thich Nhat Hanh, both of which have been published this year.
From Mindfulness as Medicine:
“As spiritual practitioners, we train our mind to anchor itself in our breath and body in our daily lives. Whenever a situation arises, however pleasant or unpleasant it is, we already have the capacity and skills to dwell in this awareness, which enables us to go through the process as peacefully and calmly as possible. This is the foundation for a healthy future. Thus, we see that pain is inevitable, but suffering is truly optional.”
A week ago a woman who my husband went to high school with rolled over in her vehicle on a frontage road and died. She was 34 years old and left behind her husband, and high school sweetheart, and two young daughters. My husband is friends with her husband and has worked with him in the construction world on and off through the years.
Upon hearing this tragic news I was reminded once again about the fragility of life and how we really never know what is going to happen from one day to the next. I was also reminded about the importance of gratitude and the expression of love and kindness towards one another. It is easy to forget that this day, today, truly is a gift. It is easy to forget just how incredibly much we have to be grateful for each and every moment.
Over the weekend I was reading the news online and came across a story about a shooting that happened in Florida. A man took the lives of 6 people and then was shot and killed by police. Among the victims was a 17-year old girl. In another story the body of a young woman was found after a boat crash the night before left two people missing just outside of New York City. The story went on to mention how the young woman was about to get married and a quote that ended the article said: “She was one of my students and a bright, sweet girl loved by everyone,” she said. “I knew that she was getting married, and to Brian (her soon to be husband and an injured party in the same boat accident). To happen to two such special kids — it just shouldn’t happen.” And in Indiana three people were killed and 26 were sent to the hospital when a bus, minutes from returning home from a church camp in Michigan, rolled over after exiting from the interstate. These situations all happened around the U.S on Saturday. Tragedy happens everywhere everyday.