There’s a few quotes that come to mind this morning that I doubt the truth of. One of these is the claim that whatever doesn’t kill you will make you stronger. This is a lie. It is a lie of the worst kind because it sets an expectation that is unrealistic.
Those experiences that ravage us most doesn’t strengthen us when we survive it, it strengthens our defences. Like Abraham Lincoln said, as adults we grow to expect that things won’t work out the way we want them to. This is not a sign of strength but rather a sign of tampered reality. Each time something hurts, a dream is eroded. What was previously enchanting will suddenly become taunting because holding on to an utopian ideal leaves us feeling naive and incompetent at times.
Strength doesn’t come from surviving betrayal, or surviving heartache or loss. If that were the case, each betrayal would drive us further from wishing for death rather than closer to it. Strength, for me, has always been an active choice based on hard earned realisations about the nature of people. The only thought that has ever kept me sane throughout the insane morbidity of life has been this:
Your actions are a reflection of who you are, not who I am
This single thought has made it possible for me to drag myself out of the doldrums on more occasions than I care to remember. Strength does not come naturally. Weakness does. Being weak, run-down, and listless requires no effort at all. So the next time someone tells me that what doesn’t kill me will only make me stronger, I’ll ask them very politely to pick a finger.
Some clichés are clichés because people were distracted by the clever use of words rather than the truth embodied within it. The point I really wanted to make in this post was that each time I pick myself up after being knocked down, not only do I have to consciously choose to move beyond it, but lately I’ve realised that every untoward incident in my life has caused me to be that much more sensitive to the innuendos that are often a prelude to my next life’s lesson. Again, the choice to restrain myself from acting pre-emptively under such conditions does not come naturally, but demands a level of mindfulness and conviction that is often not easy to realise.
It then stands to reason that what doesn’t kill me does not make me stronger. Instead, it informs my tolerance levels relative to my capacity. That tolerance level is what makes me brittle because each time I approach it, I get that much closer to snapping. When I’m not aware of it being breached, I do snap. But when I’m mindful of it I find it easy to compose myself realising that the tolerance level is based on the accumulation of experiences up to that point, and is not specifically the current experience that threatens to tip me over. This is usually the sobering thought that keeps me composed when everyone else is ready to justify why snapping would be understandable.
What doesn’t kill you doesn’t make you stronger. It simply makes you more brittle.