We all know this quote. We’ve all said it and it’s been said to us during times of strife.
That which does not kill you makes you stronger.
It was coined by philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche and it’s a whole load of bunk.
We say it to people (and to ourselves) so that they will feel empowered. But what is empowering about struggle?
Maybe you have overcome obstacles, abuse, divorce, near death experiences, illness, war or other horrible tragedies but this isn’t the movies and most of us don’t come out of battle with shiny hair and glowing skin.
Tragedies are real and they have real negative consequences. To me, all this quote does is negate sorrow and negate anyone who feels weakened by tragedy.
In a sense, I get this quote. My version of a bad day isn’t necessarily someone else’s version of a bad day. And if you’re like me and you deal with chronic illness, you understand that you have to be a little tougher just to get out of bed everyday.
But damn it, sometimes I don’t want to get out of bed. Sometimes I want to just hide.
Sometimes we all just want to hide – no matter what our version of ‘bad’ is. And quotes like this vilify that very human and sometimes very necessary need to feel sorrow – or to feel at all.
If tragedy hasn’t made you stronger, does that mean you’re someone less because you aren’t dead and you aren’t stronger? Are you in some kind of limbo of emotion?
We aren’t machines. We are people and sometimes we experience great tragedy that wounds us to our core. Allow me to nerd out on you and quote Tolkien:
There are some things that time cannot mend. Some hurts that go too deep… that have taken hold.
And that’s okay. There is nothing wrong with allowing your life to affect you.
I’ve known a few people who can simply shut off their emotions. They turn them off. If it’s something they don’t want to feel they just don’t feel it.
I’d rather take a lifetime of despair than to hold such shallow emotions that can be shut off so easily. I belief that life is about connection and if you can turn your emotions on and off you certainly aren’t creating true connections with those around you, least of all yourself.
What that quote really says is that there are only 2 options out there – death or happiness. If you aren’t happy/stronger/winning then you might as well fold up and die. There’s no room for damaged people in this world.
I think this is one of the reasons why so many of us are depressed and over medicated. We live in a society that does not allow for a range of emotional responses. We accept it when we see people laughing on the street but when we see someone cry we think to ourselves ‘they should do that in private!’
Why do we think that? Why do we so readily accept happiness but shun sadness. We shame people for feeling. And sure, maybe the person is blowing things out of proportion but who are we to say that? Our initial thought is to turn away from people in pain. We shun them for not sucking it up, when in reality, we should applaud them for being open, honest and authentic about who they are and what they feel.
Moreover, by only allowing for positive emotions, we’re blaming the victim for not finding strength in their loss. What kind of shenanigans is that?
People equate feeling sadness to being less than human but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
So remember that if tragedy or loss didn’t kill you and didn’t make you stronger, that it’s okay. You don’t have to be a superhuman machine impervious to emotions. You are allowed to be weak. You are allowed to feel sorrow. You are even allowed to cry.
Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.