Thursday, July 30, 2009

Triumph over Adversity

Triumph over adversity. Sounds good. In fact, in our society, it seems often to be the very meaning of life. And there is plenty of adversity to go around, so if you triumph over one, don't you worry! There is another opportunity for victory right around the proverbial corner.

Two major categories for adversity are addiction and abuse. Toss in a little depression, and you have encompassed most sources of adversity quite succinctly. And if you are a little bored with alcohol and drugs, just peek behind them and you will see that there is a list the length of the road to hell filled with objects of obsession. From video games to food to sex, we can ruin anything!

And who hasn't been abused? I find the longer I live, the more difficulty there is in finding people who have led lives free of physical, emotional, verbal or sexual abuse. Speaking of hunting for healthy people, too often I find myself in a stark minority as a woman who has never taken antidepressant or anti anxiety medication.

So much adversity. We must triumph! Defeat is not an option!

As a society, we have grown sensitive to all the pain and suffering of our neighbors. That is a good thing! I mean this sincerely. I know it is not long ago that women were trapped in hopeless, fearful marriages from which there was no escape. Children, too, have long anguished at hands with too much power. Those afflicted by addiction have received compassion and mercy rather than being left in the dark to battle demons alone.

In our haste to affirm, protect, heal our loved ones, we have created new laws and counseling programs to bring people from the pits of death. We say it is not that person's fault these tragedies have befallen them. We have trained for physical strength to symbolize the emotional strength needed to stay free, to be triumphant.

We celebrate conquest with such joy and primal pleasure. So much so that just defeating the shackles of an addiction or abuse is reason to publish a book, do the talk show circuit and choose which actress will play you in the Lifetime premier movie.

Good things, all. Needed things. Please don't misunderstand my words below to be in any mocking or belittling the vital importance of swaying of the heart to lift up and empower the weak.

But have we gone overboard? Have we lost our way? I think so. I think the pendulum has swung too far and we have forgotten the focus. Have you ever wondered why there are so many addictions? Why are there so many social-emotional medications out there??

Suppose there is one more to add to the list of addictions. Suppose we have come to need triumph. And how do you get that? Ding, ding, ding, ding!! That's right: Adversity, with a capital A!

I cannot believe how frequently it is offered and with what validity it is given that children should go to public school so that they will face Adversity!! We seek Adversity, not just for ourselves, but we lovingly thrust our children--those with whom we are charged to raise and protect--straight into the jaws of Adversity.

Without Adversity, how else shall we triumph? And what is life without triumph? Apparently not enough. There is an old saying. Perhaps you've heard it. It goes something like this: fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on....who? Oh, yes! ME! You jump into Adversity, it is your own damned fault! Why on earth do we celebrate and affirm it isn't your fault when you picked up the 10th beer, when you went home with the loser, when you stopped showing up at work?? I don't get it.

I don't get it, and I just am not buying that we are better human beings if we walk headlong into danger. Here is something: I pray my kids will grow up to never have been bullied! I pray they are never sexually assaulted. I pray that no one they would ever call friend would even offer them a drink, a cigarette or anything else illegal and unsafe! Imagine!

With the current societal climate, you'd think I was a hateful mom for wishing and praying such things on my kids. We have gotten so lost in affirming those who have been genuinely beaten down by genuine affliction that we have come to a place where we worship that very affliction!

We hate the idea of anyone feeling disadvantaged; we say those who've been through the gauntlet are better for it. They are stronger and wiser. Now they are equipped to face anything. It sounds so nice! And, really, what else should we say? It is truth, we pray.

There is even Biblical principle in this attitude. Joseph said to his weaselly brothers that God meant their evil acts for good. Paul says we suffer so that we might receive comfort from the Holy Spirit to share with other sufferers. Who isn't going to get in line for comfort from the Holy Spirit, after all?? That's good stuff!

But does that mean it is right to start at comforting someone for surviving evil and go to choosing or advising someone to invite evil right into the center of life? I don't think so, but I think that is exactly what we have done. College parties--oh, let's be honest here--high school parties (and the phenomena seems to be starting earlier and earlier all the time) are a virtual Petri dish of addiction and abuse. Couple this with the permissive, 'blind eye' being turned by parents, teacher, and even law enforcement, and you have the perfect recipe for young people to be dragged down into Adversity.

"Experimenting" in drinking, drugs and sex is portrayed as healthy and normal among even young teens on countless shows depicting and targeting their real-life peers. By the way, just how much do you have to do before we drop the euphemistic "experimenting" tag? Either way, this is considered more than normal. It is healthy and normal!

How many times does a life have to be derailed before we know that getting on the train will lead to pain? Well, I propose we have reached that number, whatever it may be. And I propose that it isn't just the experimenting that parents are permitting. It is the adversity. We don't arm them. We don't teach right from wrong. We don't equip them. We send them to adversity and trust they will triumph and be stronger and wiser for it.

So, who is the wiser, the one who climbs out of the pit, or the one who threw a log across and crossed it unscathed?

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