While I was in the middle of my own personal hell someone said to me, “This will build your character.” They whispered it to me like it was some incredible secret that only I was being let in on. I didn’t know my character needed building.
While people mean well, and one day I’ll do a whole essay on the dumb things that people say when one is going through a hard time, words of wisdom like it will build my character don’t tend to bring comfort.
But, here’s the thing. Being in a difficult spot can build character. You can’t have character built against your will. You are a part of the building – a part of the process in which you grow and change and become more. You choose how you’re going to build, where you get your resources from, and what tools you will use to build with.
When faced with a hard time in your life you survive and endure. You are laying the foundation. This is the beginning. Your job is to survive. Then you buckle down and you endure. It’s not glamorous. It’s not even complicated. It’s instinctive. You just do it.
Building on the foundation: Perseverance, the Fight
This is what you tack on to survival. You take the surviving and you move forward one step at a time. You need to muster up some energy for this one. This motion may go undetected to the naked eye, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t moving. You need to move forward even if it’s slow in order to get from endurance to perseverance.
Before you know it you’re in the fight. The fight isn’t rocket science, but it may be some of the hardest work you’ll ever do. It’s hard because you take hits while being hit. It’s a lot of back and forth. One minute you’re winning and the next minute you’re on the ground wondering how you got there. Maybe you’ve lost a job. Maybe you’ve lost someone. Maybe you’re just lost. You’re doubled over having been hit with grief and, well, loss. It’s okay because eventually you get up and it’s not too long before you’re gaining ground and winning. In the middle of the loss and grief you might find peace, acceptance, laughter, maybe even some answers to your questions. These are things worth fighting for.
You don’t usually go through something hard to build character – it’s not the goal, but character gets built because of how you’ve chosen to go through your journey. When you get to the other side take a step back and see what you have become – what you have built. You are strong, secure, compassionate, perhaps a little raw and vulnerable, but you’ve taken difficult circumstances and navigated them to the best of your ability and you have come through. People will call you things like survivor, brave, courageous. This is nothing to sneeze at. These characteristics are now a part of you and they were probably there all along. That is something to celebrate.