Strength or Denial?

My privilege to walk with people in some of their toughest situations provides a lot of unique opportunities. One of them is fielding the questions that go along with those situations. While discussing the need to move forward from adversity with a small group of friends I was asked: 

“I’m wondering, PJ, how you can tell the difference between moving through adversity with strength and moving on without having dealt with the grief?”

The answer seems simple enough, but it requires the highest honesty with ourselves. Moving through adversity with strength is distinguished by the marks of Purpose, Gratitude, and Forgiveness. Moving on without having dealt with the grief is marked by the noted absence of those three Elements of Personal Choice.

When dealing with adversity in a healthy way, we aren’t afraid of the thoughts of the adversity. The death of a loved one, the loss of a relationship, or being fired from a job are all traumatic events that can bring heavy emotions. If we maintain or regain our sense of Purpose, we can embrace the emotions and see our way through. Gratitude shows up in our willingness to take the good from the situation and choose it over the bad.

This is important! Consciously choosing the good over the bad is an act of Purpose and Gratitude. This is totally different than putting on blinders and ignoring the bad of an event. Choosing the good while acknowledging the bad is the most important distinction between strength and denial.

Finally, in strength through adversity, we see Forgiveness. It can show up in many ways. Forgiving someone that wronged you or a loved one. Forgiving yourself for a mistake. And just as important as forgiving something in the past is applying forgiveness forward. a.k.a. Granting immunity. This allows us to move forward knowing that resentment or guilt can try to raise up and cripple us, but we are giving ourselves permission to get going any way.

I’ve seen numerous people sit still in the pit of adversity because they were afraid that moving forward from grief would some how lessen the importance of the adversity. Others have circled the emotions, moving on without having dealt with the grief, because they weren’t sure what might happen if they met the grief head on.

Unresolved emotions don’t just go away. They sit and wait. Sometimes growing in strength and surfacing at the worst possible times. The time that grief can do the least damage is when it is fresh and you face it. Allow yourself to stumble through it if you must, but stumble forward. The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Philippians, wrote, “But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.”

Through the conscious application of Purpose, Gratitude, and Forgiveness, we can move forward with strength, knowing we are handling adversity in the healthiest way possible.

Be your best,


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