What determines strength, character and courage? Hint: It's got absolutely nothing to do with how big your biceps are or how much ya bench.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt was an avid womanizer until polio racked his body at 39 years of age. The man, becoming wheelchair bound, eventually led the United States from despair to victory during its darkest hours since The Civil War. FDR's wife once remarked that Roosevelt's polio "Was a turning point... it gave him strength and courage he had not had before."
What makes some men (and women) go on when everybody else would quit? How do some people turn disaster and failure into stepping stones?
FDR was, for all intents and purposes, a playboy or a cheating bastard depending on your perspective before he was infected with polio. Suddenly, that lifestyle was stripped away from him. How many times did FDR have to look in the mirror and ask his God why him? How many times did he look in the mirror and feel like giving up? How bad were those bad days? What did it take for him to come to terms with his affliction and move on; move on to not only become President of the United States, but go where no American president has ever been before or since: to four terms in office?
Does the struggle forge character and integrity or does it just showcase it? How long are those long nights, how black those dark days, for those truly intrepid souls whom history has no choice but to remember?
As my country's foundation is battered by a recession, I find myself going through my own struggles with fear, self-doubt, worry and change. It feels like the world I made an effort to create around myself is crumbling around me- being stripped from me with unmerciful and embarrassing precision. And I look in the mirror often, asking myself who I am and what can be done. Some days I feel emasculated, beaten and tired. Some days I feel like quitting.
But then I scratch my stubble and smile. FDR's fifth cousin sums up my feelings on my matters at hand with the aptitude of a journeyman, the wisdom of a man educated by deed and the authority of a leader:
"It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes up short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat." - Theodore Roosevelt
The man who quits, in the end, dies with that poor, empty decision it was his sole choice to leave behind: nothing.
For me, "nothing" is not an acceptable repayment for this gift of life. Keep it simple.