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Adversity and Attitude

Posted on Monday, May 1, 2023
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by AMAC, Robert B. Charles
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17 Comments
Adversity

Adversity, like it or not, is the great teacher. We have it now, may get more, but every generation back to the dawn has known it. Some are crushed by adversity, wars, losses, depression, disease, and disconsolation – unable to rally. Others grow stronger from it, rising like the Phoenix from ashes. The trick is to figure out how to be strive and grow, not shrink and writhe in distress.

In the dark days of World War II, filled with moral, human, emotional, and physical destruction, Winston Churchill stood firm. His clarity lifted others. Victory comes from believing in the possible, then finding the power within – to make it so, whatever the challenge or odds.

“Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities,” he wrote, “because it is the quality that guarantees all others,” echoing Samuel Johnson. Both men were right, of course.

Courage vanquishes fear, and without fear we reach heights never imagined in its shadow. We gain the confidence needed to persevere, and then create unlikely outcomes.

But there is more to overcoming adversity than courage, confidence, and sustained conviction. These are the start, the foundation. On that foundation, fortified by faith and life history, we have to build a fortress, one that lasts, one that repels downdrafts, repeated disappointments, battles waged when inspiration is low, enthusiasm bumping along the bottom, when we are exhausted.

This is true of individuals, and no less of nations. It was true of Churchill personally, as much as the nation he led. Throughout the war, from Dunkirk to Normandy and VE-Day, Churchill was forced to be his own source of inspiration – against his ‘black dog,’ depression.

To do that, to win that battle every day, get beyond the recurring downdraft, he built on that foundation of courage. He built something that would last. He reduced life to what he knew with absolute certainty, and never lost faith in what he knew to be true.

Later, he would write: “All great things are simple and many can be expressed in a single word: freedom, justice, honor, duty, mercy, hope.” And…from where does the power come to hold firmly to such things, to defend them against personal and international onslaught?

Maybe Corinthians gives us a hint, another way of explaining “true north” and defeating adversity. “These three – faith, hope, and love abide; the greatest of these is love.” Why, after all, do men dare and strive, risk and rally, focus on and often die for the values Churchill named?

We grow in proportion to risks taken, love shown, and degree to which we get beyond ourselves. Ironically, adversity – facing fear, loss, stress, and discomfort – actually motivates the courage, love, and fight that lies within, allowing us to rise, grow, and beat the adversity – to win.

Again, Churchill: “Kites fly highest against the wind, not with it.” What a metaphor. Only when stressed, pressed, and threatened with loss, do we find what we really have, who we really are, and then – more often than not – discover we have far more within than we knew.

Only when the stakes get really high, do we bear down, forget distractions, work with all we have to win, taking responsibility for the outcome, often turning the dial, changing everything.

The wonder of it is that sometimes, in one life, a few lives, the life of a nation – by defending those values Churchill understood, recalling the message of Corinthians, or just sitting at a window and resolving to get up and to make a difference, things do change.

The interesting part is we think we are unique, but the formula is timeless: Keep perspective, envision winning, find the courage to beat fear, then start working, building on that foundation – and do not give up.

Cicero knew a hero lurked in every soul, often summoned in adversity. “It is the character of a brave and resolute man not to be ruffled by adversity…” and that character reinforces itself.

Frederick Nietzsche, a wandering mind of the 1800s, despised nihilism, thought societies in decline devalue life, and railed against that slide. His words apply with equal force today.

Pushing society to think and grow not shrink and decay, he wrote: “What does not kill me makes me stronger…This is my philosophy in a nutshell.” Adversity, like it or not, is the great teacher.

As society gets softer and excuses multiply, as dependence and division raise adversity – we have a simple choice. We can either be crushed by it, or rally to it – defend higher values and defeat defeatism, or let it win. Is there really a choice? As Churchill wrote: “Attitude is a little thing that makes a BIG difference.” We know we have the attitude, now just need to use it.

Robert Charles is a former Assistant Secretary of State under Colin Powell, former Reagan and Bush 41 White House staffer, attorney, and naval intelligence officer (USNR). He wrote “Narcotics and Terrorism” (2003), “Eagles and Evergreens” (2018), and is National Spokesman for AMAC.

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Rob citizenship
Rob citizenship
10 months ago

Great, inspirational writing Robert, the matter of dealing with adversity, many things connected — some good sense survival thoughts, some good character builders, all involve contributing to the betterment of life. Reference to Winston Churchill very good, some experiences he had and his courage helped keep the world on the right course toward freedom. Some humor can help sometimes too, example , when trying to build a 17 foot long wooden boat in the 1970’s , first experience doing that, I realized what I was doing was more involved, more difficult than I expected. So, I thought of the old saying ” If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” Gave myself a laugh by thinking of
a different version of that advice, like if at first you don’t succeed , maybe what you are trying to do is impossible, and maybe it would be a good idea to just quit, and not waste any time trying to do the impossible. Having a laugh about that I continued the project, several months later had a well built wood boat completed. Built a few more after that one during the next ten years or so. The men and women who value doing what is necessary to deal with adversity will lead the way in making a better world . Thinking about the Lewis and Clark expedition , what an extraordinary challenge that was, the courage, the determination, involved, tons of adversity to deal with during that expedition, having the right attitude sure enough makes a huge difference. In the spirit of being resourceful, having a sense of purpose and being determined to do what is right. All part of having respect for the will of God . Thanks for this great article Robert. Well Done !

SusanW
SusanW
10 months ago

Good day, Robert! A Monday morning is a wonderful and refreshing time to be reminded of how important adversity and the challenges of life and country are to our personal and global growth. Without it, we tend to get complacent and soft. Golda Meyer encapsulated it quite nicely when she said, “You’ll never find a better sparring partner than adversity.” It strengthens us and enhances our sense of courage.

Thank you for restarting my internal engine and preparing me for a challenging week. These philosophical articles are the most valuable ones for me. They often remind me of what’s truly important and how incredibly strong I really am. Have a great week.

”Courage is what it takes to standup and speak, courage, is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” Winston Churchill

John P. Rademacher
John P. Rademacher
10 months ago

Mr. Charles, I sincerely loved your article. It helped me snap out of my anxiety with the current American directions. What you reminded me of, is that angst and fear, even when legitimate, are no path to solutions. Personal energy counts for more than I am often willing to accept. Thank you ????

John P. Rademacher
John P. Rademacher
10 months ago

Mr. Charles, I sincerely loved your article. It helped me snap out of my anxiety with the current American directions. What you reminded me of, is that angst and fear, even when legitimate, are no path to solutions. Personal energy counts for more than I am often willing to accept. Thank you ????

John P. Rademacher
John P. Rademacher
10 months ago

Mr. Charles, I sincerely loved your article. It helped me snap out of my anxiety with the current American directions. What you reminded me of, is that angst and fear, even when legitimate, are no path to solutions. Personal energy counts for more than I am often willing to accept. Thank you ????

Patriot Will
Patriot Will
10 months ago

People who do their best to face adversity and overcome obstacles to achieve their worthwhile goals gain a sense of inner pride, an inner pride that is positive and optimistic. This type of inner pride is noble and full of inner peace. It is not the type of pride that is boastful and demeaning to others. True, inner peace pride, does not attempt to put others down nor does it strive to control the thoughts and actions of others, In fact, inner peace pride is in harmony with both oneself and others.
Inner peace pride is both strong and humble — strong in that it feels secure with its own thoughts and feelings, yet humble in that it respects others to have their own thoughts, feelings, and quirks. Adversity helps the individual to be more complete as a human and as a being of God.

Spitfire1940
Spitfire1940
10 months ago

As a member of the RAF, I attended his funeral and later visited his grave.I still miss him.

Melinda
Melinda
10 months ago

Robert, your articles are always optimistic and inspiring. We “little people ” need that to keep striving for a good and happy life.

DDS
DDS
10 months ago

Thank You for being a constant source of wisdom, integrity, and hope.

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