5 Lessons of Adversity I Hope Everyone Experiences


Life is hard. Even when life is really, really good, it’s hard. I’ve always been drawn to warriors who have lived hard lives because they’re the ones who will tell it like it is. They’ll tell you that the circumstances they’ve faced have beaten them down but that it’s a choice to stand back up. They’ll own it because to deny it would make them a victim and they refuse to be victims. Many of them will look you in the eye and insist that their tragedies were the best things that ever happened to them. They’ll tell you that they’re actually grateful for the hardship they’ve experienced.

Because if you’ve faced adversity and let it change you for the better:

You know the difference between major and minor catastrophes. When your worst nightmare has happened, you really mean it when you say, “I’ve seen worse.” It makes it a lot easier to put adversity into perspective when you know how bad things can really get. Life can still be frustrating but you know what real problems are.

You realize which risks are worth taking. We can’t go through life playing it safe all the time, even if we want to avoid being hurt again. Adversity can make us more willing to take risks and not settle for anything less than what feels true and right. Quitting a job to do something you love doesn’t feel as scary when you truly understand how short life is. Stepping outside of your comfort zone is terrifying but it can’t be worse than what you’ve already gone through.

You become more sensitive to tiny miracles and moments of grace. People are paying it forward, reaching out and joining hands all around if you pay attention. When you’ve been low, you see the beauty in a smile or the kind gesture of a stranger. You look at kindness in a different light and see that connection is The Light that makes darkness bearable. You want to do your part to be The Light.

You’re more compassionate, empathetic and less judgmental. Not all of the time because you’re still human but since you know what it’s like to struggle, you recognize it in others and you don’t turn away from their pain. You give second chances because you’ve been given second chances. What you’ve been through makes you want to do something for someone else because you’ve been in their shoes. You look for and see reasons for behavior that others may not see and you know how powerful it is to hear, “I’ve been there too.”

You realize you know nothing so you’re open to everything. Whether you have faith in God or think it’s all random and arbitrary, you accept the great mystery of life. Anything can happen at any time and instead of letting that terrify you, it frees you to live unencumbered by the pointless fear of the unknown. Life becomes an adventure because you know that you have the resiliency to face hardship. If you’d never suffered adversity, you wouldn’t know that about yourself.

I hope this helps you see that through your adversity and struggles, you can become a gift to the world. When you’ve failed and failed often, when you’ve been hurt and survived, you have choices. Like Andy says in Stephen King’s The Shawshank Redemption, “I guess it comes down to a simple choice, really. Get busy living or get busy dying.”

24 thoughts on “5 Lessons of Adversity I Hope Everyone Experiences

  1. Hi cousin Karen, I enjoy your writings! I’ve always loved that SK Shawshank quote, at its simplest, it’s such the bottom line. You’re really right about the “gift”, that we are granted compassion, after living through the toughest times in our lives. “Out of chaos, comes opportunity” Keep that pen on fire! love, Barb
    PS (I think my user name is actually my sweet niece Solana, she must have logged on my mac, I’ll ask her if I should create an ID for me)


  2. I think the one that rings true the most for me is recognizing the tiny, graceful moments. I really treasure those moments today because I know how fleeting they could possibly be. It makes every day much more beautiful when I have that perspective. Thank you for sharing this!


  3. Great post, Karen. I nodded along as I read this, as I saw myself in those points. I think that in recognizing myself in there, I felt a great sigh of relief in knowing that it wasn’t just me thinking those things. Again, I need to be constantly reminded I am not alone, and you have done that for me, my friend. What you speak is truth. Not everyone’s truth. But yours…and yet it is in many ways true to me as well, and that is where the Light gets stronger, through a collective wisdom and coming out of the other side of things knowing we are stronger, not more broken. But it can feel like breaking at the time…but we heal. Boy do we heal, and not only do we heal, we have an afterglow that comes from the pain. it’s the antithesis of the pain – the afterglow as I like to call it…a ringing bell, a compassion, a deeper scar of wisdom.

    Whever I start to get into the “Why me?”, I flip it into “Why NOT me?”

    It all comes down to perspective.

    Great stuff 🙂



    1. Thank you Paul. I love how you talk about a collective wisdom that makes us all stronger. There is such power in compassion and the people who are most compassionate seem to be the ones who have suffered the most. The most generous people I’ve ever met are the ones who know what it’s like to have nothing and are often people who on the surface look like they have very little to give. Thank you for always sharing thoughtful comments and for your friendship.


  4. You nailed it, my friend. I learned, with my son, how to put things into perspective. And realize what really matters and what is inconsequential, that nobody’s hardships are lesser or greater than your own (there is no ‘one up-manship’) – compassion gives us a fuller life and a more generous perspective, and that we have amazing strength within us that we never realize until we need it – and it’s just there…and we use it and we can shape it to be our greatest tool to expand our lives or we can turn it inwards to make us bitter and resentful. The circumstances that pull people together (something catastrophic) can be an opportunity to open ourselves up to find the beauty in other people.


  5. Wow. This is such a powerful post. I had to read every single word slowly and then read it again to take it all in. I felt like you were shining a light on my life. And then the part about being the light…I was trying to explain that to someone yesterday and you put is SO WELL. I am going to read this again in a bit. Wow.


  6. Thanks for this Karen….i need to be reminded every day. It is simple to fall into the victim mentality, the “poor me, why me”…it is truly one of my biggest character defects. However, what i have come to know is that the struggles in my life make me uniquely qualified to hall another with the same struggles, the same pain. And I try and remember that every day..”i am .uniquely qualified”. And I accept that helping others is now a part of my path…it has made all the difference in my attitude and outlook. I AM more compassionate, less judgmental, and that shift in perspective has been an incredible relief. I am also more apt to allow others to help me….I understand how good it is for everyone to feel useful.
    thanks for this perfect reminder!


    1. That’s a great point about letting others help us and a lesson that I’ve always struggled with. I love that you embrace how you’re uniquely qualified and how it’s changed your perspective! I feel honored to share your journey through your blog. 🙂


  7. Great post. I do take exception with one little point. Whether I have faith in God or it is arbitrary is the kind of duality that I disagree with. That denotes the view of the world as right or wrong. There is just as much empirical proof of many Gods as there is proof that there is one God. I write the word the way I do, Ggod, so that people can see that there are other possibilities besides the dualistic diety we have been asked to say is absolute.
    Thanks again.


  8. Great post Karen. It’s good to be reminded that adversity has a purpose and benefits. All 5 of your points hit me. I hope that the next time adversity pops up, I remember what you’ve said here. 🙂


  9. Recently I met a woman with one hell of story – 2 weeks after separating from her husband she was hit by a car, legs broken, head injury, a year in the hospital, disability from brain injury….she was just coming out of all of that when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
    As she told the story, she mentioned a pivotal moment in the hospital when the “why me” overwhelmed her, informed every thought, every move. Until, she said, “I didn’t like myself anymore”. So she changed her attitude. She got back to her funny, her sense of humour.


    1. That is amazing! My favorite Wayne Dyer quote is. “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” It’s such a simple concept but one that can truly change our lives if we do it. Thanks for sharing that story!


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