“That which doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.” This phrase first coined by German philosopher Freidrich Nietzsche in and around the late 1800s is one of those iconic phrases that has stood the test of time, and is as true today as it was then. I love using analogies. It’s something I got from my father. Analogies allow me to teach and use various examples to tell a story, rather than simply conveying the facts of a particular event. “It’s kinda like this, or kinda like that.”
In nature it’s very easy to see that what doesn’t kill a tree can actually make it stronger. Hurricanes, wind, drought and flood are all challenges to a tree’s development. These challenges have the capacity to over take a fragile tree and do it in. But these same challenges also stand to challenge, or harden off, the tree and then develop its physiological character, as well as it’s ability to withstand these same challenges even better, the next time around.
Trees, need to sway in the wind. The swaying actually lifts up their roots and causes them to grow more, allowing the tree to improve upon its foundation. Without this natural, or what we call biological, challenge, the species would never be able to endure a more severe hurricane or gust of wind. If you’ve ever enjoyed looking at the structure and branch development of a large old oak tree, you are likely seeing and appreciating the challenges that tree has met, head on.
That’s right, trees and plants don’t get an opportunity to back down. They don’t get to say, “Hey I’m afraid, I don’t think that I can handle this.” Instead they must deal, and when they do; again and again, they have the capacity to do and deal with even more. This is the absolute truth! Nature is such a wonderful teacher.
Intuitively I know that you and I are very similar to the tree. In our lives we need challenges in order for us to build our muscles (grow an expansive root system). We’ve always been like this. Since we were young, life has thrown us hurricanes, and heartache, and yet, we’re still here. There were times when we didn’t think we’d make it, and in those times, we got grounded, we learned to dig deep and set more roots.
Adversity and life’s trials and tribulations are essential. They’re natural and necessary in fact. The Christians say to pray. The Buddhist say to meditate. The arborist will tell you to stake up your tree, but be sure not to stake it too tight because the tree needs to sway a bit. Boundaries and parameters are a good way of looking at it. It’s okay to safeguard, and see that total obliteration doesn’t happen; but whatever you do, don’t expect that life shouldn’t be challenging. And remember, that which doesn’t kill you is actually serving you quite well. It is making you stronger, more aware and showing you just what you’re really made of.