I do suppose I should first interpret the phrase, so you may all appreciate my understanding, and I shall proceed from there.
To me, it means that adverse circumstances - disasters, setbacks, pain, suffering, sorrow, illness and loss - make us better able to deal with the same in future, unless they render us deceased, of course.
Why, what a strange notion. Strength!
There is much that has happened that I surely would not have had occur. And I am yet alive, so to speak.
Why, what a strange notion. Strength!
Have I become stronger with consumption, for instance? No, surely I have become weaker. I cough, struggle to catch my breath. I cannot run. Some days it takes all my will to rise. It will not help me contend with another bout of pneumonia. On the contrary - I am quite likely to lose my very life.
Have I become stronger with the loss of my family, my home? No, I surely have become weaker. It would be a benefit to speak with my cousins, my uncles, to share with them joy and pain, worry and hope, theirs and mine. To discuss, to plan. We would surely be stronger for the collaborations, the companionship. There is no substitute for a kind hand, an understanding eye. Encouragement and support allows one to do more and not less. And immediacy of people and projects and plans also bring immediacy of mind. A certain urgency spurs one on to act for those one loves. I would be stronger, able to do more with their presence and they with mine. Their loss has not killed me, but I am weaker for it.
Am I stronger, being unable to practice my profession? No, surely I have become weaker. I could have begun the Southern Dental College with Hub! To have helped give education, which I value so highly, to Southern youth. I could have given hope and meaning, understanding and ability to them, some perhaps like me, determined, diligent, wanting to advance honour into infinity. The college does exist, without my help, but with my input, could it have been better still? I am certain my hand would have brought further greatness that is now lost. Would accomplishment not have given me the power and respect to do more still? I have every confidence it would have. I am not stronger for it having been taken from me. I was a fine dentist. I won all the prizes in Texas. I am not stronger for losing my place in my profession, even my simple place, without the achievements with Hub. I see the way they look at me, as I walk down the street, perfectly justified and an unrepentant gentleman. I feel sadness, unwelcome at Christmas, at the ice-cream social. I love ice-cream. I hear their disdain: a consort with a whore, a sporting man, an itinerant gambler, a drinker! I do not regard them as other than the fools they are, lacking vision. But I should be stronger, were they to respect me. I could surely give more to my community. Do you think that is nothing to me, that I am unable to do so! Do you think it is nothing to me, that my very friend is questioned, vilified, simply for my friendship, that he must waste his time defending me? Such things do not breed strength, but weakness - an inability to act, to accomplish, to further ourselves, the world and the future.
What a strange notion. Strength!
Ah, but I know what you are thinking, you see. You object. This is so linear, so literal. What of inner strength, of surety, of pride in oneself? Strength for the internal struggle? Strength of character.
I can only smile, with the insouciance which makes them surely hate me.
When you say this phrase, you mean that one's sense of identity is strengthened. You mean that suffering makes one become more complex, deeper. You mean that coming through pain allows one to see more clearly, have more compassion, shine more brightly, for having experienced more.
I must still disagree. Pride is a virtue. Pain does not make me stronger. I know what I am about, have perfect confidence. I have no need of pain, neither internal nor external, to bolster my identity. Have courage, have pride! That is what breeds strength. Diligence and Determination. Practice and study. You control yourself. There is no need for bolstered identity. It is born of what you do, what you believe. If you are not already full of maddening pride, then you are irresponsible. Identity is a lack of regret. If you are certain, with everything - every move you make, every word or kindness, every loyalty, line of honour, act of will - that you are doing what you think is for the very best, your identity needs no strength from overcoming pain. And if you are not doing what you think is for the very best, I can only smile sweetly and know something about you, something core, which will cause you to resent and repudiate me. Pride is a virtue!
What harms but does not kill us does not make us stronger. It harms us. We are weaker for it. Who knows what wonders I may have accomplished? I have perfect confidence they would have been greater still than the miracles I accomplished despite them. I have been so ill, for so long. Every action I took, from a simple lifting of a whiskey glass, was shot with physical pain and struggle and the despair of loss. And yet... I believe I have been a paragon of honour and diligence.Name: John H. Holliday.
Word Count: 947.
Please comment if you wish.
Nulli Virtute Secundus.