I’ve heard people say, “I don’t wanna just survive, I wanna thrive.”
In a scientific study from 2015, Psychologists Judith Mangelsdorf and Michael Eid state:
“A survivor is a person who lived through hardship or disaster. A thriver is more than that. It is someone who not only goes through an exceptionally positive or threatening life event, but shows subsequent growth because of the experience. (1)”
While trials and tribulations are, let’s face it, HELL to go through, science agrees with the Bible in that struggles help us grow stronger and be more self-assured. If we’re determined to survive, we eventually learn to THRIVE, despite the circumstances.
The Apostle Paul put it this way:
“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us—they help us learn to be patient. And patience develops strength of character in us and helps us trust God more each time we use it until finally our hope and faith are strong and steady. Then, when that happens, we are able to hold our heads high no matter what happens and know that all is well, for we know how dearly God loves us, and we feel this warm love everywhere within us because God has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. (Romans 5:3-5)”
The study by Mangelsdorf and Eid asserts that “individuals develop critical capabilities to draw from in times of adversity that facilitate posttraumatic growth.”
In other words, you can achieve great, personal development during trials and tribulations.
You can either let catastrophe destroy you, or realize that, as Dale Carnegie said, “Discouragement and failure are two of the surest stepping stones to success.”
As Al Pacino said in The Devil’s Advocate, “Pressure. Changes everything. Some people, you squeeze them, they focus. Some people fold.”
I would assert that, through suffering, we slowly grow wings, and I don’t know about you, but I find flying much more fun than crawling.
In another study from 2001, Bad Is Stronger Than Good, the writers state that, “(g)ood can overcome bad by force of numbers. To maximize the power of good, these numbers (of good, positive events and thoughts) must be increased. (2)”
I found this interesting, because their research shows seeking out good, positive experiences will eventually begin to drive the damaging feelings from our spirit.
I’ve had several traumatic experiences in my life, including molestation as a child, depression, chronic pain and a suicide attempt. Now, if I was lonely and alone, with no joy or hope in life, desperation might have crushed me.
Thankfully, I have an AMAZING family, both by blood and at church, with whom I’ve shared a bright landscape of positive experiences. Thus, according to this study, the good not only helps to balance out the bad, but the sheer amount of love and happiness in my life has helped to push back the darkness which sought to overtake my soul.
So continue to seek happiness, chase after love and joy, and pursue good, positive experiences.
The outweighs the bad, so to speak.
If your buddy invites you for fish’n’chips, go with him, even if you don’t feel like it.
If your “bestie” wants to take you out for frosted coffee (I’m not a coffee connoisseur, so I’m not sure of the 97 different types), let her, even though you might be down in the dumps.
For example, today I got out of my rut and ate lunch with my wife and son. For my lunch break, I normally close my office door, turn the lights out, put my headphones on, put my feet up and relax/meditate. It’s almost become a positive “addiction,” you might say, but I promised my family that I’d try and start getting out of my office once a week, and I really enjoy it.
To keep the darkness at bay, you have to seek out the light. For Christians, this may mean going to single socials when you wanna just curl up and take a nap. It might mean going to church, even when the depression is overwhelming. It could even mean sticking around for the church dinner when all you REALLY wanna do is sneak out the back door before the altar call.
When you feel as if life is swallowing you whole, do something about it! Call a friend, see a movie, read a book, take a walk in the park, SOMETHING, just don’t surrender to hopelessness.
No amount of good, positive experiences can make you forget the bad ones, but chasing after the sun can sustain you when the storm clouds move in.
Here’s a cool quote from the second article mentioned: “Even though a bad event may have a stronger impact than a comparable good event, many lives can be happy by virtue of having far more good than bad events.”
And there you have it.
Bad times not only help you to develop strength you would never have otherwise, but also help to push back the gloom. And remember, always be on the hunt for bliss. Chase after it, thus overcoming despair.
I really hope this has helped!
1. Eid, Michael, Judith Mangelsdorf; What makes a thriver? Unifying the concepts of posttraumatic and postecstatic growth (2015)
2. Baumeister, Roy F., Bratslavsky, Ellen, Finkenauer, Catrin, Vohs, Kathleen D; Bad Is Stronger Than Good (2001)