Every Man’s Call to Defiant Gratefulness by MARCUS BROTHERTON on APRIL 8, 2013 (seen on http://www.artofmanliness.com)
That’s the challenge for all men. Most of us will not encounter life and death situations, but we will all encounter serious adversity. The interplay with adversity is human and universal.
How will adversity sit with us? Will we work through it, acknowledging that the trouble was genuine trouble and yet knowing that it strangely helped form us into who we are today? Or will we become victims of adversity, forever dismayed by it, perpetually sorrowing at our losses, continually hurt by our disappointments?
In simplest terms: Will that hardship make or break us?
My term for Burgin’s attitude today is “defiant gratefulness.” It’s what I have a bit of already in my own life, and what I want far more of.
The “defiance” doesn’t mean rebellion. Rather, it’s a determined sort of gratitude. It’s an attitude of resolve. Defiant gratefulness is when a man says, Screw it, I won’t be destroyed by hardship. In fact, I choose to see adversity as something that makes me stronger.
Imagine the opposite: what would your life be like if you never encountered any sort of a challenge?
A man who lives in a completely problem-free world—where he never needs to summon courage, or show backbone, or get along with someone who doesn’t agree with him, or have the fortitude to work out a problem without taking a hike—is a man untested. He’s a child.
Because of hardship, we see that we can be brave.
Because of hardship, we learn to have backbones.
Because of hardship, we are able to work amicably with people we don’t agree with, or we can shake hands in disagreement and walk away.
Because of hardship—and our ability to navigate through it—we become men.
Pulitzer-prize winning novelist William Faulkner (1897-1962) likened gratitude to electricity. “It must be produced and discharged and used up in order to exist at all,” he wrote.
In ancient history, St. Paul of Tarsus issued an extreme call. He was an older man by the time he wrote about the problems he had endured. Five times he was publicly whipped. Three times he was beaten with rods. Once an angry mob pelted him with stones. Three times he was shipwrecked and once spent a day and night alone on the open sea. Yet he extended this blanket call to defiant gratefulness: “Give thanks in all circumstances.”
The “all” is a tricky word to navigate. No, we are not called to be thankful for the hardship itself. Nick the waiter isn’t asked to be thankful that his girlfriend cheated on him, much the same way R.V. Burgin isn’t grateful for an enemy soldier trying to stick him with a bayonet.
Rather, we are called to be thankful through hardship. Or in spite of hardship. Or, thankful for what the hardship produces when we see beneficial change in our character.
Can you echo the words of R.V. Burgin—Quite frankly, I’m glad I got to fight in the Pacific—whatever the specific adversity was that you went through?
Are you defiantly thankful?
That’s the invitation offered to every man today.
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