The Survivor’s Muscle

d864b8be85a3ecded890362381248fd2I know a little about survival. I’m not really referring to any Darwinian-evolutionary perspective, but a simple matter of beating the odds. Starting with my birth, I was born with a collapsed lung and expected to die. When I was 8, I cut off my finger (long story), and after the doctors sewed it back on, they actually wanted to remove it again because it was so infected—but it stayed. My Mom died when I was 14, and most of my teen years were filled with extreme poverty and neglect. As an adult, I have battled a few serious auto-immune illnesses, and most recently, had surgery for a cancerous tumor. I am still trying to work through what that actually means to me, as well as trying to understand what treatment options I should pursue. I’m doing my best to survive—and thrive—in life.

I don’t share these things to boast of myself, for much of my survival is attributed to other factors, most especially God. But my point is that loss and pain push us, make us work harder, increase our appetite for learning and growing, and they tend to make us appreciate things and people more. If the “No pain, no gain” adage is true, those who have gone through the most difficult moments in life have perhaps gained the most as well. It almost sounds sacrilege to think or say so when going through the trial, but after the trial, most would agree that is the truth.

In my research among those who have experienced some of the greatest trials (including kidnapping of a child, bullying and suicide of a child, terminal illness, being forcefully removed from their home, etc.), I have begun to recognize the Survivor’s Muscle, a sense of strength developed by working through hardships. It is incredible. And yet, ironically, this kind of strength or muscle is something we tend to cover up. Just like wearing long sleeves and sweaters, we are often too embarrassed about how our pains and loss have affected us. We simply do not want others to see it.

Whether you have lost a loved one, battle mental illness, or are dealing with any other trial, the truth of the matter is that it takes a thousand times more strength to cope with those things than to have a life of ease. The fact that you are functioning, working, breathing, interacting with others, no matter the level of comfort or discomfort you are feeling, you are so much stronger than you think. Going through your trial demands that strength, and therefore it proves you have it.

Perhaps it is time to break out the symbolic muscle shirts, and start being proud of (or at least grateful for) the Survivor’s Muscle you have already created. Instead of comparing yourself to others, and seeing yourself in a limited or fainted light, now you can see yourself for who you really are—and what you’ve become. Look at all you’ve accomplished, not just despite what you have experienced, but even more importantly, what you have experienced because of your hardships in life. Your Survivor’s Muscle is rock solid. Your strong looks good on you.




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