The strong among us.

Strength comes in many different forms. What I’ve come to realize is that the person with the greatest strength is the one that remains positive when facing the greatest of adversities. I don’t know what the difference is between two people who face similar, overwhelming challenges and one responds with doom and withdrawal and the other responds with a smile and keeps going. That’s not to say the one smiling isn’t feeling the same fears as the other – it’s just something about their personality, their character, or some other intangible quality that keeps them living their lives and not spiraling toward darkness. I really don’t know what it is, but when you see it in someone, you’ll know it. They are the ones that don’t let challenges change the essence of who they are. They own the obstacles; the obstacles don’t own them.

Hardly a day goes by when challenges aren’t presented to all of us. I suspect there is some psychological equalizer that makes one person think their challenges are equivalent to another’s. Objectively, we know that’s not true, but sometimes it’s difficult to tell. A person facing a minor challenge may magnify their negative reaction to that challenge while others facing eminently greater adversity simply focus on the positive in their lives.

Everyone probably recognizes the first type -the ones who have no hesitation to share with you how tough their life has been. They’re hard to miss. Then there are the other ones, the covertly strong ones. They’re the ones that deal with adversity with positivity and an appreciation for what’s around them. To the casual observer, they may appear as if they are the luckiest person in the world because they see the good around them. Outwardly, they may appear normal, but inside, they may be facing incredible demons and doubts. What’s remarkable is that it doesn’t rob them of their lives. They are rare and special.

Reactions to adversity are curious. I really don’t know what the difference is between the two types of people. I wonder where the strong people get their strength. Is it something their parents taught them? Did they learn it in school? Did they read it in a book? Maybe some of those things played a role. However, at the end of the day, I think it’s some intrinsic personality trait that guides how people will react to adversity. Some people get knocked down and never get fully back up while others are knocked down repeatedly and always find a way to bounce back. That’s not to say bouncing back is easy, but it is who they are. You know them when you see them – if you know them well enough to know their life is not the utopia it may seem to casual acquaintances.

Resiliency is defined by Merriam Webster as “an ability to recover from or adjust easily to adversity or change.” [1] The special people I’m thinking of, the ostensibly cheerful ones facing extreme challenges, are resilient, but I would disagree with part of the dictionary definition that says it’s easy. It is not – that’s why their strength is so impressive and what makes them so remarkable.

Yesterday, I watched as birdfeeders were filled and heard the human whistle announcing to feathered friends that their lunch had been served. Sometimes remarkable, inner strength is seen in the simplest of actions – if you know to look for it. I am lucky. I see it. It is humbling.


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