If I were asked to give what I consider the single most useful bit of advice for all humanity, it would be this: Expect trouble as an inevitable part of life and, when it comes, hold your head high, look it squarely in the eye and say,” I will be bigger than you. You cannot defeat me.” Then repeat to yourself the most comforting of all words,” This too shall pass.”
To forgive oneself in the face of a devastating experience is perhaps the most difficult of life’s challenges. Most of us find it much easier to forgive others.
In many instances we can’t control what happens to us, but we can control our reactions to what happens to us. We can stay down for the count and be carried out of the ring, or we can pull ourselves back to our feet. If we are victimized by others, we must refuse to give them the power to break our spirit, make us physically ill, perhaps even shorten our lives. Most doctors will tell you that worry, anxiety, tension and anger can make you sicker than a virus.
The expression “never breakdown” suggests that nerves have broken down, but organically the nerves are healthy. The problem is purely emotional. A doctor on the staff of the Mays Clinic has said the majority of patients in hospital beds today are there because of illnesses that were psycho-generated. This means the sickness was triggered by an unresolved problem.
I believe in blind faith. I have known people who have suffered deep personal tragedies, and this faith has helped them. But I also believe in the efficacy of positive action to overcome grief. Time is a healer, but those who help time by using it wisely and well make a more rapid adjustment.
Grief, in part, is self-pity turned inside out. The widow who cries,” He was everything to me. How can I go on without him?” is crying for herself, not for him. The mourner who refuses to let go of his grief eventually isolates himself from his friends. The world may stop for a few hours, or perhaps a few days, to hold a hand or to wipe away a tear, but friends and relatives have problems of their own. Life goes on-and hose who refuse to go on with it are left alone to wallow in their misery.
The best prescription for a broken heart is activity. I don’t mean plunging into a social whirl or running off on trips. Too many people who try to escape by doing just that succeed only in taking their troubles with them. The most useful kind of activity involves doing something to help others. I have told thousands of depressed people, “Enough of this breast-beating. No matter how bad things are with you, there is someone who is worse off-and you can help him.”
Most touching to me is the heroism, the courage and faith of the average people in the world. Often readers who write about a problem will add something about their personal lives. I am moved by the magnificent people who write such lines as, “My husband lost his sight shortly after we married, but we manage beautifully.” Or ,”I’ve had two operations for cancer, but I know I’ll be able to attend my son’s graduation in June and I’m so thankful for that.”
No one knows why life must be so punishing to some of God’s finest creatures. Perhaps it is true that everything has a price and we must sacrifice something precious to gain something else. The poets and philosophers say adversity, sorrow and pain give our lives an added dimension. Those who suffer deeply touch life at every point; they drain the cup to the dregs while others sip only the bubbles on top. Perhaps no man can touch the stars unless he has known the depths of despair-and fought his way back.