What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger…

OK, time for another rant.  I am so sick of people saying, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”.  I respond to that with a resounding, “BS”!  I think this is something that people have made up to help them get through difficult time.  I KNOW “What doesn’t kill you makes stronger” is not true–no matter how many times Kelly Clarkson sings it.  Do people really believe that broken hearts, tragic deaths, destroyed homes make people stronger?  It just doesn’t compute to me.

As I look back through life at some of the horrible things I’ve gone through, I cannot point to ONE of them, and say it actually made me a better person, much less all of the problems making me a better person, as I am supposed to believe  Actually, most of the severe problems I have had have made me a weaker, worse person than I was before.

For starters, growing up in the United Pentecostal Church (one of the harshest, most dogmatic, legalistic, controlling churches known to man) was a huge trial and tribulation. It did not make me a stronger person, it made me a weaker person—I was afraid of everything, everyone and myself. I feared every thought and every action.  I lived in real fear that I was going to be struck dead because of unholy thoughts.  I still struggle with the fear that I was taught.  Growing up not going to movies, not watching TV, not being able to go to a football or basketball game, missing all the sock hops at school, NEVER wearing shorts or a short-sleeved shirt, not being able to listen to the radio, having to keep my hair short (in the 1970’s when long hair was the vogue) did not make me a stronger person.  Learning to say that a woman was going to hell if she had make-up on, if she had open-toed shoes on, or red shoes, pants or jewelry on did not make me a better person.  It made me a critical person that constantly struggles to overcome the bad habits I was taught.

I have had to work hard to overcome all the setbacks that the church put on me. How has living through those trials and tribulations of growing up in this church made me stronger, or a better person? Personally, I don’t think it did anything but make me a hard-judging weakling. I was taught how to judge everyone and everything, but not how to be strong enough to stand up for what myself.  Now, because of what I was taught, I have to guard against hating the ones who made me live that lifestyle. The hate that these trials brought to me does not make me a better person.

Did being beaten and abused at times make me a better person? Did walking around every day wondering if today was going to be the day that I got slapped, made to put a whole can of cayenne pepper in my mouth and hold there or being beat on until I would say, “Momma, I don’t love you, cause if I loved you I wouldn’t be bad” make me a stronger, better person? NO!  It made me a weaker person, who is scared of his shadow.  If you think that getting beat on makes me a stronger person, you need to examine your heart.

Losing my two best friends at the same time in a senseless accident when I was sixteen did not make me stronger–it made me afraid to get close to anyone, because I was afraid I would lose them, and go through that pain again. I still keep most people at a distance because I do not want to ever suffer that pain again.

I’ve had people say, “Well, you can’t understand someone else’s pain until you’ve experienced it.” Yes.  Because I suffered from debilitating migraines means I can understand what someone else says when they say the pain of a migraine is terrible, but how does that make me a better person? I can understand that delivering a baby is intensely painful too, but I don’t have to go through it to feel sympathy for a woman who is having labor pains.

I’ve never had cancer or a heart attack, but I can still empathize with, and help someone who is going through cancer or a heart attack. I don’t have to experience it to know that it’s bad, they’re hurting and they need someone to rely on.

I think the belief that our trials make us stronger is another man-made justification. It’s trying to make it sound good to go through trouble. It’s an effort to give meaning to problems.  I have come to believe that problems do not have meaning.  Often bad stuff happens, and there is no meaning to the bad things.

If people really believe that going through trials make them stronger, why aren’t they praying for more trials, instead of praying for God to deliver them from the trials they are in? If they believe the trials are God’s will, why are they praying to be delivered from these trials? That’s praying against God’s will. I can just see it, a woman at the altar saying, “God, I’m learning and growing from all this arthritis in my left knee. Why don’t you give me arthritis in my right knee, both elbows, my back, neck and feet so that I can really grow and glorify you? While you’re at it, can you throw in a little gout and some cancer too?  Oh, and don’t forget to give it to my kids, and take my parents from me, in the most horrible circumstances you can! I really want to become stronger in you, so send me all that you have!” Do you see someone praying that prayer? Of course not, you’d send them to the funny farm if you heard it. However, if we’re to believe all that we’re taught about our trials making us stronger, the strong in faith should be praying for these types of things.

According to the Bible, Job was tested, and he passed the test. Do you think he really thought he was better off because he had lost all of his children? I know he didn’t curse God, but I cannot imagine that he ever said, “I’m so glad that God took all my children from me. I wish that I had had more children to give Him”. I know the story says God gave him new children, and doubled Job’s prosperity.  However, having seven new male, and three new female children did NOT ease the pain of loosing his first seven children.  I am sure (as a parent) that Job mourned those lost children the rest of his life.  Don’t you think Job would’ve been happier if he had been allowed to keep his family? Did buring seven kids really make him a better person?

As an animal lover, I know that even having every camel (and other animal) replaced two-fold did not take the place of the special relationships he probably had with certain of his animals.  I lost my beautiful golden retriever, Sammie, two years ago.  I have another wonderful golden now, but she does not replace Sammie.  I will always have a hole in my heart where Sammie was.  Presumably, Job loved his animals as well.  He always had a hole in his heart where those animals (and kids) should have been.  Don’t you think Job would have gladly stayed poor and broke, if he could have kept his children and animals?  How did Job’s trials make him a better person?

I have had a “thorn in my flesh” that I have prayed about for at least 35 years. I have done all the things the church has taught me that I should. I have prayed, I have studied to show myself approved, I have fasted (some things don’t come out but by prayer and fasting, right?). I have prayed to be delivered, I have cast out demons, I have stood in faith truly believing God was going to deliver me–but this thorn in the flesh is still there. The Bible teaches to seek, and we shall find, to knock and it shall be opened to you. After almost 35 years of knocking,  I have decided that God is not home, or He’s not going to answer the door. I don’t think it’s unreasonable after so much time to come to that conclusion. Has this struggle made me a better person? I don’t think so.

Just because some have been able to cope with their trials in no way means that all people can or even should.  We all have different strengths and weaknesses, and why do we think that everyone has the strength to withstand “trials” because a few people have the strength.  All the suicides in the cemeteries prove that not everyone has the strength to withstand all that is thrown at them.

People often say, “Well, I don’t like dealing with people who have never had any pain in their life.”  If you get behind the facade that these “pain-free” people put out for the world to see, there’s pain in their lives. I constantly hear how trials make you become a more compassionate, understanding and useful person. That sounds nice, but I find that most people just become scarred from their trials, and they don’t become better. Becoming better sounds nice, but I don’t really see it in people’s lives.

My biggest struggle is “we must learn to get through it with peace”. I don’t get through my struggles with peace. They scar me, torment me and hurt. Is this a flaw in my character?

I have had questions about “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” most of my life, but I was too much of a hypocrite to voice them, or I was too scared of God, the church and my family and friends to voice them. I am just now learning how to be honest with myself, and with others. I think if most people are honest, they will admit they have had many of these same questions, and were too afraid to admit it also.

My faith has changed, grown and evolved through the years. I do NOT blindly accept what anyone tells me.  I don’t blindly accept what a deity “says”.   If it doesn’t make sense, I try to figure out why it doesn’t make sense. I believe I have a brain, and am expected to use it. It is one of the talents that has been given to me, and the Bible tells me that God will require those talents of me.

Everything that was put into the universe is orderly.  Once you see the pattern–from the smallest atom to the biggest galaxy–there is order, logic and sense. The orbits of the planets make sense. If something absolutely does not make sense, it means I do not have enough information to make sense out of it, and I go searching for the information that I need to make sense of it.  “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” doesn’t make sense when you look at it logically.  No matter how I look at it, I cannot find the logic in “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”.  It just doesn’t make sense.

My inability to blindly accept “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” had led me to question God on many levels. The Bible teaches that if I seek I shall find.  If I knock, He will answer. When I seek and I don’t find, when I knock He doesn’t answer, I think I have the right to ask Him why He didn’t answer. If I promise you I will make you a lemon meringue pie if you bring me a pie pan, and you bring me the pan, and I don’t make you the pie, you feel that it is ok to ask me why I didn’t make the pie. I think God should be held to the same standard. If He promises if I do “X”, He will do “Y”, and He doesn’t do it, I have the right to ask Him why He didn’t do it. That’s only fair, and follows the teachings of the Bible.  The Bible says, “Let your yeas be yeas, and your nays be nays”.  I don’t think it’s right for Him to hold us to one standard, and Himself to another.  If our yeas need to be yeas, then His yeas need to be yeas.  I think that’s just and fair. Religious people often say maybe there’s something else that He wants me to do.  That’s fine, but why doesn’t He man up and tell me if He wanted me to do something else, instead of leaving me in limbo?  Or, is it just possible that God is a man’s creation to try to help give meaning to life, just as “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” is a creation that tried to put meaning when there is no meaning?


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