In the opening line of his famous book “The Road Less Travelled” Scott Peck referenced one of Buddha’s “Four Noble Truths” by saying:
“Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths”
Recently this quote appeared in a Facebook post in my feed; unfortunately it appears the writer stopped reading after this sentence, and appears to have missed the real point the author was trying to make.
The post came from a parent I know, one whose son also has Muscular Dystrophy. After the quote it went on and on and on about how their life is extremely difficult and hard, going into great detail about all they don’t have, what they can’t do, all the lost opportunities, daily frustrations, how taxing the daily medical procedures are, etc.
Worst of all, they squarely blame their son’s illness for everything.
Reading the post made me sad; not because this person feels their life is truly difficult, but rather that (a) they’ve obviously missed the point, and (b) because of the illness they chose to present their life (and in essence, the lives of all families with sick kids) as one of constant misery, duty and unhappiness.
Being in the same boat I’ve earned the right to have an opinion about this; and not only is it completely 100% off the mark, but I feel it’s an irresponsible and selfish point of view.
Rather than detailing the challenges families with special needs kids have, it comes off as an attempt for personal attention and pity by and for someone who believes life should never be difficult, regardless of individual circumstance. To suggest otherwise seems both unreasonable and unfathomable to them; hence the long-winded rant.
Now don’t get me wrong: Illnesses like Muscular Dystrophy (or cerebral palsy or epilepsy, Alzheimer’s etc.) bring certain challenges for families; I know this firsthand.
Sure, at times our lives are hard, difficult, trying, exhausting and even terrifying – Take it from someone who waited 18 hours while their child was in surgery having two titanium rods fused to their vertebrae, which was not the easiest way to spend a day.
But for one person to appoint themself as spokesperson for all families with sick kids is wrong by telling the world (on Facebook no less) that our lives are “hard” is wrong. It suggests that families without sick kids have an easier go than those of us with, which is simply not true.
Are their lives easier? Hardly. Different? Absolutely! And just because thier lives don’t involve wheelchairs and cathedars, doesn’t mean it’s always rosy for them, not by a long shot.
Here’s what I mean.
I once knew someone who appeared to have the world by the tail; successful and wealthy, this businessman owned five companies and had as many houses scattered all over the place.
He’d married his college sweetheart, and over the years became father to several children whom he provided the best education for.
Well respected by all, he was viewed as a trusted advisor and generous philanthropist. The bottom line is everyone (including me) looked up to and admired this man.
Imagine my shock the day he called and asked me to check on a property he owned. “Why, what’s up?” I asked. “Well” he said in a strained tone, “My eldest son has fallen in with a bad crowd and is involved in drugs. We are worried that he and his friends are going to break into the property to steal things to get more drugs”
In that moment my heart sank for this poor family. On the outside they seemed to have everything; but the truth was that because of this situation, every day was truly hard and difficult for them, and they were truly suffering from broken hearts.
So yes, having a child with an illness is difficult at times; but as this story shows, so is having a child without one. Because it’s not the child or the illness that makes life difficult; its us believing that as human beings we are entitled to an easy, carefree life without stress, worry or complaint and then complaining to the world when we find out it’s not.
Any other thought – like the point of view of the post-writer – is a serious error in judgement.
In his book, Peck explains “Once we truly know that life is difficult – once we truly understand and accept it then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters”
I’m confident the Facebook poster never got past the “Life is difficult” statement since it alone would explain thier need to tell the (Facebook) world how “hard” their life is, and what (and ostensibly who) is to blame. But the truth is, they are way off base, and here’s why:
While speaking at events on behalf of Muscular Dystrophy Canada I’ve met many, many families and can tell you they (we) don’t feel this way. Oh sure, we have unique challenges, but who doesn’t?
The families I met tackle life head on with gusto, doing whatever needed to ensure they have wonderful experiences to share together, whatever those looks like for them. What they don’t do is complain about their circumstances publicly to a bunch of strangers, which let’s be honest, is what most “friends” on Facebook are.
These families positive outlooks and actions are inspiring; they are also why I feel that bemoaning this (or any) life situation on Facebook seems selfish and worse – reckless. Because if this post is read by their writers child, I can only imagine how hurtful it would be for them.
LIFE IS DIFFICULT- BUT IT IS SO FOR A REASON
The bottom line is that life IS difficult, and no-one is questioning that; but as Peck reminds us, regardless of who we are or what challenges we face, accepting this noble truth gives us the strength to move on and learn how to overcome aversity.
Because it’s in our most challenging situations that we learn, grow and become bigger people; the kind of people who rise to the occasion and do whatever has to be done to achieve our goals.
On the other hand, not accepting this noble truth means a continuaton of the misery, duty and unhappiness that dogs the entitled and naive who feel life owes them a smooth sailing free ride; which for people like our post-writer, probably means they’ll continue to use their child’s illness as a scapegoat for their unfulfilling life… and really; it that anyway to live?
I didn’t think so either.
I’m asking you to embrace adversity. Let it challenge you, and then rise up to it’s challenge. It won’t be easy; in fact as Peck warned us, it will be difficult.
But if you do, in the end you’ll be glad you took on the challenge, and your life experience will reflect that.
I know I am.
The Road Less Traveled by Scott Peck can be ordered here.