I’ve been intrigued by the recent presidential debates and interviews and analyses and pundit commentary.
One of the issues that has come up has been how the candidates handle adversity, even at this very early time in the 2016 race.
They say that Donald Trump is in it for the thrill and the fun and sheer ego-boosting ride that is pre-caucus and pre-primary politics, when the love of the American people can be, all at once, embracing, supportive, petty and fickle. When it is no longer fun, the story goes, he will be gone too.
Ben Carson is too quiet, too low-energy, too easy-going to be the chief executive, his detractors say. The man is a trained neurosurgeon, but he is still portrayed by some as soft and weak and not presidential.
Jeb Bush has come across as hurt, frustrated, angry, and apathetic, a candidate whose temperament might have been better suited to 1950s politics than today’s fast-paced, multi-tiered, multi-threat politic landscape. “I have better things to do than …” he said.
The Democrats are not immune from this kind of talk either. Hillary has come out on the other side of fifteen days of talks, hearings, attacks and smears designed to knock her down and keep her down for the count. She has not ceased to bounce back up and arguably has the Democratic nomination locked up even before the first snowy caucus is held in Iowa.
Adversity comes in many forms for the presidential hopeful. If he or she cannot handle the heat of the pre-primary kitchen, how in the world can they ever be expected to stand the blazing heat of the world stage after victory is won? This part of the process is by design a winnowing, a series of tests to see who has it, and who doesn’t.
I have had some adversity in my own life of late. I’m sure you have too. I sometimes think that I finally have it all figured out, that I have my ducks in a row, that my plans are sound and that my path to success and victory in life is clear and obstacle free.
Then, something happens.
Someone does something that I am not prepared for, pulling the rug out from under me.
Someone says something that makes me wonder about their allegiance, their resolve, their loyalty.
Someone does something that makes me doubt the goodness of man as a whole, frustrating me and making me angry.
It is at these times that I must sit myself down and give myself a pep talk, a gentle chiding.
Sure, I could always take the easy way out, and many times I have been tempted to do so. Stop trying, stop caring, stop being flexible, stop coming up with innovative solutions and new answers.
I could quit because sometimes life is just not fun any more. I could abdicate my responsibility to my coworkers, friends, family, or others who look up to me or count on me to be strong.
Sometimes I simply do not feel that strong.
Life goes on, with all its wonderful surprises and deep emotions and withering assaults and twisting, turning, enigmatic shifts of perspective and vision. If we want to live life, really live it, we can’t bow out at the first sign of heartache or trouble or difficulty. Not in the arenas that we hold dear.
We must be steadfast in the face of adversity.
Adversity builds character.
Character holds us up, buoys us in times of great stress and trouble. Without it, we drift and are tossed about like so much chaff on the wind.
Adversity, whether for presidential hopefuls or for you and me, is the crucible in which the ore of resilience is refined.
Embrace it, face it head on, and you will be stronger.
Greg Smith is a psychiatrist who blogs at gregsmithmd.
Image credit: Shutterstock.com