The Value Of Difficulty and Hardship
Difficulty and hardship are not usually considered a good thing. But actually, one of the least known secrets of mental and emotional health is that trouble can become a blessing if we have the right attitude about it.
It is natural, and even instinctual, to try to avoid suffering and shun pain. And, of course we should do so if we can. But it is even better to try to solve our problems, prevent or alleviate suffering, and to accept the difficulties and challenges over which we have no control rather than to resist them.
If we avoid life’s challenges or seek escapes they grow bigger and more daunting, and our escapes themselves become new, costly problems. And if we hate life for giving us problems, or hate the difficulties life presents us, we make things worse for us and miss the point of life – which is to learn and grow. Most people don’t realize that problems, difficulties and pain are necessary and can be for our benefit.
How can this be so?
Try imagining a life without pain, a life where nothing went wrong, and where everything was easy. We wouldn’t have to lift a finger, do anything or make effort, and we wouldn’t learn, develop and grow. We’d all be couch potatoes. And we wouldn’t be happy because true joy and lasting happiness comes from meeting and overcoming life’s challenges. Difficulties require, motivate, and enable us to learn and progress, and we can do this if we accept and engage the challenges they present rather than running away from them. Difficulties can draw out the best in us. They require and enable us to develop and discover in ourselves abilities and skills we never had. The difficulties of parenthood, for example can have this result, as does the necessity of earning a living, or of recovering from illness or loss, or the need to find a solution to a problem, etc. But if instead, we get lost in self-pity, it becomes a trap that prevents our growth and prolongs our suffering.
Most people don’t look for the potential value and purpose of suffering, so find no meaning in it. We waste energy shunning it without realizing how much it can help to accept and embrace whatever challenges we happen to be born with and come our way. This is not easy, of course, but it is within our unique human capacity to do, and is what has enabled us frail human beings to survive in forbidding environments, prevail in the face of terrible events, make marvelous discoveries, and create miraculous inventions that ease life’s burdens. And it can alleviate suffering if a person has this perspective and can find meaning in it.
While it is not easy to gain this perspective, and we don’t often see the purpose and value of suffering until we’ve come through it and gotten beyond it, it can be very helpful to have the counsel of a wise and understanding person to help us get a broader perspective and guide us through. This is one of the primary purposes and functions of counseling and psychotherapy, and makes it a great asset to anyone beset with troubles.