Author, Teacher, Psychologist and Speaker

What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger!

Posted by on Apr 16, 2012 in Blog, Monday Musing | 6 comments

“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger…stand a little taller…”

~ Kelly Clarkston, Stronger

 

There has long been a debate among psychologists, scientists, and theologians regarding the familiar saying:  “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

This phrase was originally credited to the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche in his autobiography, Ecce Homo: How One Becomes What One Is. Although he was sick and dying, suffering from the effects of terminal syphilis, he was still able to philosophize and write about his “triumph” over debilitating pain and agony. His disease devastated not only his body, but his mind, yet until his dying day, he remained strong in his will to survive.

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

Some psychologists disagree, and attribute triumph in adversity to those who are already the strongest. They hold that there is nothing to be gained in suffering through “the crippling experiences of life.”

Other scientists have concluded that “although traumatic experiences such as losing a loved one can be psychologically damaging, small amounts of trauma can make us more resilient,” and that even in the face of death, the will to survive can become strengthened. That is why people can live for years with chronic pain and life threatening disease.

 “What does not kill you makes you stronger,” though often relegated to a worn cliché, is very inspirational and true to my own life. Years ago, I was diagnosed with stage IV bilateral lung adenocarcinoma. My doctor said that my cancer was too invasive to be removed by surgery, too extensive to be treated with radiation, and that there was no proven chemotherapy protocol. It was terminal. No cure. The devastation and terror I experienced is hard to articulate.

I had never thought of myself as a particularly strong person. In fact, I often “gave up” on things I found too tough. So when my oncologist told me that he would try an experimental procedure and that if I survived the therapy, I had a “fighting chance”, the concept of gaining strength through suffering became a daily challenge.

How could I possibly find strength while hooked up to IVs filled with chemotherapy month after month for almost eight years, crawling on my hands and knees to the bathroom night after night, watching my hair fall out strand by strand? The debilitating fatigue, painful neuropathy, and numbing “chemo brain”, was anything but strength producing. And yet, I survived. Was it because I was so strong? I doubt that.

I fought – to be thankful, to stay positive, to chase hope, to understand and support the many who were suffering similar and worse fates than me. For me, I know that fight and that adversity made me stronger. Through the suffering, through the faith I found.

In Romans, Paul says, “And not only that, but let us exult while in tribulations, since we know that tribulation produces endurance.”

 

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

To serve your turn long after they are gone,

And so hold on when there is nothing in you

Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”

 

~ Rudyard Kipling, If

 

What do you face today? No matter if the issue is physical, emotional, spiritual, relational, or financial. Whether it is small in the light of things or monumentally overwhelming for you personally, though you may feel it may kill you, can you let it make you stronger?

6 Comments

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  1. Keiki Hendrix

    Such an encouraging post! I certainly needed to read this today. Thanks Ann.

    • Ann Eisenstein

      Keiki, I pray that you find the answers to your pain today! I know that you are a strong woman already – but pain is pain! Hope the doctor gives you good news and some relief!

  2. Karen Tomas

    Ann… your website is wonderful!! Congrats to you on more than this website!! I would have never guessed you have endured sooooo much! You are an inspiration. I too, needed to read this today!!

  3. Susan

    fabulous! You certainly are one strong woman! I thank god for you!

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