February 18
A person of character finds a
special attractiveness in difficulty
since it is only by coming to grips
with difficulty that we can
realize our potentialities.

Charles de Gaulle


Today's Meditation:

Today offers us another idea about perspective and attitude, two things that necessarily go hand-in-hand in our lives.  It has to do with how we see things that are a part of our lives--do we look at difficulties as terrible obstacles that we can't overcome, or do we see them as wonderful opportunities to grow, to learn, and to develop our character?

We are full of potential, of chances and opportunities to grow into the people we were meant to be when we were created, and we find our chances for growth in the challenges that we face.  We don't even need to overcome every challenge, or win every battle, to learn and grow from it.  We can become better and stronger people through the act of facing the challenges in the best ways we know how, with equanimity and balance, with purpose and calmness.

Some of the people I teach with wonder that I don't get upset when challenges come up.  In my life, though, I've searched out challenge after challenge, including joining the Army, pursuing graduate degrees, buying cars that needed fixing up, arranging trips abroad for students--partly because I've known that in accepting and embracing these challenges, other challenges that would come up in life would seem much easier to deal with when they did show up. So some of the things that happen in school that seem very difficult to others seem rather simple to me, mostly because I've been fortunate enough to have faced many more extreme challenges and obstacles in my life.

Most people avoid challenges because they see only the short-term unpleasantness.  But if we can start looking at the long-term benefits of going through that short-term unpleasantness, we can see that Charles makes sense--we can only reach our potential by coming to grips with the difficult, instead of trying to build our lives around the simple and the easy.

Questions to consider:

What kinds of challenges do you tend to avoid?  Why do you avoid them?  Is it helpful to you not to face them?

How can we build our character by facing difficulty?  How can we recognize when the difficulty is worth facing and when it's better to avoid it?

What does it mean to be a "person of character"?  What kinds of things does a person of character seek out in life that may be different from the things that other people seek out?

For further thought:
There may be difficulty at the moment, but I will not lose the Virtue that I possess.  It is when the ice and snow are on them that we see the strength of the cypress and the pine.  I am grateful for this trouble around me, because it gives me an opportunity to realize how fortunate I am.



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