In his column, Father Ed Dougherty, M.M., reflects on recognizing what it means to be an effective leader, including what it is we learn through personal adversity. This stained glass image in St. Ann Church, Lawrenceville, depicts Jesus as a leader who is surrounded by people of all walks of life. File photo,
In his column, Father Ed Dougherty, M.M., reflects on recognizing what it means to be an effective leader, including what it is we learn through personal adversity. This stained glass image in St. Ann Church, Lawrenceville, depicts Jesus as a leader who is surrounded by people of all walks of life. File photo,
“Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny.” This quote by C.S. Lewis opens Nathan Lambert’s Psychology Today article “How Greater Challenges Help You Grow.” Lambert shows how the adaptations we’re forced to make due to adversity are often the very things that lead to greatness.

Lambert profiles a number of people with life-circumstances that prompted growth. For instance, one woman, who was particularly tall, realized that she could use her stature to become a stronger leader, rather than allowing herself to feel self-conscious about her height. She said, “I think the biggest thing is just to have good posture, be proud of it and be radiant! It does make you stand out; it makes people look to you. It can make you a natural leader because people will look to you first. So, it can really be a benefit in terms of leadership and taking charge if you let it.”

Aside from learning how to use adversity to cultivate leadership skills, Lambert also shows how life’s challenges can make us stronger, help us learn to deal with our emotions, and inspire us to exert greater effort. He quotes one woman from Japan struggling to achieve academically in a learning environment that is not her first language. She says, “In school, it’s hard for me to get good grades because English is my second language. But because I know I’m different because I’m not American, I work harder to be one of you guys...because I’m different, I do put in extra effort.”

That extra effort she feels compelled to put in to overcome learning in a second language is exactly the thing that will set her apart and help her to succeed in a myriad of circumstances throughout the rest of her life. This is exactly how we should approach adversity, by adjusting to meet the challenges put before us and allowing those adjustments to form our character for the better.

Lambert writes, “Growing because of trials can be compared to the oyster that has a little piece of sand lodged inside. In response to this intruder, the oyster makes the most of its trial and makes a beautiful pearl! Without the challenge or setback of having this uncomfortable piece of sand, the oyster would never have made the pearl.”

One of the most profound observations Lambert makes is about the healing that can take place within ourselves when we learn to master our emotions even in times of adversity. It helps us to be less judgmental of others, more forgiving, and more capable of understanding where people with whom we disagree are coming from. And these are some of the most important attributes we can have during times of adversity.

The world is in need of leaders capable of building bridges between people, and in order to build bridges, we must first listen and understand where people of different backgrounds and perspectives are coming from. So we must remember that, before assuming a leadership role in life, we must first listen and understand, which requires the patience we learn through personal adversity.

It is important for us all to remember that, as we go through our own trials, we are building character traits that will not only help us to succeed, but that will prepare us to help others. In this way, we join our efforts to Christ, who showed us the true path to using all of our suffering and adversity to change the world for the better.

For free copies of the Christopher News Note HOW GOD CAN LIGHT YOUR WAY, write: The Christophers, 5 Hanover Square, New York, NY 10004; or e-mail: mail@christophers.org

Father Ed Dougherty, M.M., is a member of the board of trustees for The Christophers.