Victor Hugo, the famous French author of Les Misérables, is credited with the following quote: “Adversity makes men, and prosperity makes monsters.” Although Hugo walked on this planet two centuries ago, he must have known what he was talking about, because political analysts today are saying the same thing. The bottom line: there is value in struggle.
Humans, it seems, are hard wired for struggle. When we don’t struggle, and instead live entitled lives, we become spoiled, selfish and stupid. Our struggle typically begins at birth, when we work to get out of our mother’s womb. Then, as we go through life, we mature by facing adversity after adversity, struggling to overcome whatever obstacles or trials we encounter along the way.
Those who have not experienced any true struggle in their life are often found lacking in both maturity and character, not to mention happiness. This was so widely understood among those in my generation that whenever we complained about whatever hardship we were going through, someone would invariably say the words that had been ingrained in us from birth. It builds character.
Yet, nowadays, that is not what people tell each other. Maturity and character appear to have fallen out of fashion. Instead, we find people who are quick to be offended and quick to blame others for whatever hardships or unfairness they experience, or are witness to, or merely hear about. As a result, instead of focusing on their own character, they focus on everything they see that is wrong with everyone else.
This shift from character building to narcissistic protesting intent on exposing the flaws of others is disturbing to witness, because this is not what makes men (and women). What makes men and women is real struggle and the desire to do the right thing in the midst of that struggle.
I am all for taking a stand against evil, yet we must be careful to be more interested in improving our own character than we are in criticizing the character of others. If we are not, then we are nothing but hypocrites.
Let’s hold others accountable, but first let’s hold ourselves accountable, so that we might have a chance to be part of the solution instead of part of the problem.
You may also want to check out this blog post: We Need Discomfort to Force Us to Learn and Grow.