A: Adversity – What It’s Really Like

Adversity | WIRL Project

This post is part of a series titled, “A-B-Cs – What It’s Really Like”. Each week a new letter and its word will be revealed. Each word’s explanation will illustrate significant personal meaning, application and ultimately demonstrate, What It’s Really Like… 

I believe one of the single biggest indicators of a person’s character is how one reacts to adversity. In a previous post to the WIRL Project I wrote an open letter to the parents of my baseball players in which I emphasized the importance of experiencing adversity through competition as a means of learning traits such as humility, respect and accountability. Unfortunately, many of these traits have been lost upon the new-age generation in a culture that places heavy importance on the popular front-running winners.

There is nothing wrong with embracing accomplishment and the prosperity of hard work. But what happens to those individuals or groups when accomplishments fade and large obstacles loom? I am a firm believer that in the real world life’s high fives come on the back or the face.  When it’s going well, many are there to pat you on the back and congratulate you. When things are not going well, it can be a humble, sobering smack across your face. It is between these innate transitions that we learn how to deal with non-ideal situations.  Adversity teaches us to compete or be beat.

I recently have read some fascinating editorials stating that America is no longer the top superpower in the world. Much of it revolves around the backpedaling economy, education and scale down of worldwide military presence. Last week during a very awkward home plate pregame meeting with the umpires before a baseball game one of the men discovered that I was a social studies teacher. He immediately asked me how I taught the subject and if it was the “western civilization” as he learned it in his day or the “world’s view”. Of course as an educator I have been well trained to navigate neutrally through no-fly zones like politics and religion. I could sense the political undertones of the conversation and was able to produce a statement that was directly on the fence. Something that I said pleased him as he replied, “Well, good.  I am a firm believer of teaching exceptionalism and that America is the greatest country in the world. We had better keep it that way.”

Hmm. I consider myself patriotic, but I am not sure that I agree with the umpire’s statement. I think that everyone can agree that our country has had much brighter days. America is currently facing adversity. I am not sure if an attitude of exceptionalism would be the best strategy for rising above and conquering our country’s major obstacles. Relying on past experiences and favorable outcomes my not always win the day. Adversity is certainly is a bitter pill to swallow, especially for those who have experienced high levels of favorable outcomes in the past. Compete or be beat.

The bigger lesson is what we can learn from adversity and what it can teach us. What about adversity on an individual level? Over the past few weeks I have found myself asking several difficult questions about adversity: How can a sixteen-year-old boy recover his life after having his arm bitten off by a shark? How can a race-related mass shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, intended to segregate and destroy a community, bring a community closer together? How is it that my mother can get herself up to battle a third major cancer diagnosis? Compete or be beat.

Each of us faces some type of adversity on a daily basis; no one man’s burden bigger than another. It is what you do in the midst of that adversity that means the most. Compete or be beat. When faced with adversity, which will you choose?

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Husband. Father. Brother. Teacher. Coach. Sports fan. Weather geek. Backyard vacationer.

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