The Paradox of Tough Times by Andrew Sercombe

Tough times for tough people

(Striving Writer’s note: I am currently facing a tough time, and so you do. You and I are losing hope in a season, which is supposed to be filled with joy and laughter. But we are forced in this situation, thanks to circumstances beyond our control and maneuvers of people around us. It’s not our fault, but what can we do?

 We lost our jobs and our homes. Our loved ones have tricked and abandoned us. Friends have forgotten us, and certain people cheated us of our hard-earned money. We are struggling to make ends meet. Our remaining finances are running thin, and employers aren’t calling back. 

We’re getting weak, hopeless and helpless by the minute. We are now losing the will to live.

 But is this the end of us? Will this be the end of us? Lonely and teamless we may be, but armies of angels are behind us, and the former greats who came before us and are cheering for us, encouraging us to move on and fight, and empowering us with memories of their great deeds. Alone and helpless we may be, but this is not the end of us. There is still hope. 

This is the end of our sad and painful past. This is the beginning of our glorious and rewarding future.

People we know have abandoned us may not be with us, but angels and legends will be waiting for us at the finish line.

I share you this piece written by a life coach, who also went through tough times like us. May his words inspire you and me. We read for hope and a fresh, new start in 2015.)

(Emphasis mine in bold italics.)


Let me guess: you have been through some tough times recently?

You are not alone. Many men and women, and sadly many children and young people too, live their while lives facing and handling tough times.

Our family has not had it that tough, although for a year not so long ago we were on ‘Family Credit’, the British government safety-net for those below the poverty line. (It is a very low poverty line!) As a family we have experienced the emotionally and debilitating trauma of betrayal and significant rejection – from people we profoundly trusted and still love.

I have personally come very close to a nervous breakdown in the past through stress and overwork.

Our eldest daughter contracted a serious, life-long incurable disease when she was 19 years old. We are a very close family, and I can’t begin to tell you what her illness did to my wide and me.

We have experienced the deep down feelings of panic that come to those who face circumstances beyond their control. We have found ourselves forced to think differently, act differently, live differently.

We have walked with close friends, clients and colleagues through the deep agony of the bankruptcy, cruel injustice, divorce, physical assault and bereavement. My wife was only 28 when she lost her mum through cancer. Her mum was 52.

But we have not experienced what you’ve been through. Only you have done that. Your tough times may have been, or may be still, a lot more painful than ours. You may want to run away, or quit, or commit suicide, or divorce, or resign, or whatever.

Someone to blame

It is very tempting in tough times to look for a scapegoat, someone to blame. We want to know who put us where we are, and then fantasise about what about what we will do to them. We’ll make them sorry, hurt them back, make them apologise, take them to court, get even, force them to make amends, or grovel, or take responsibility for what they did to us and those we love. We want to ruin their reputation, warn everyone else of what they’re like, and if we could seriously get away with it, kill them.

Like you, I’ve felt most of those reactions – particularly over pain that my family has experienced and has certainly not deserved. deserved. Choosing for these things to make me better, bot bitter, has been very challenging. How will I deal with tough times, especially when I know I didn’t ‘deserve’ them?

As you know, this book (50 Ways to a Better Life by the author) is not designed as a ‘smile and forget it’ palliative, gimmickry and shallow to make you feel better short-term. Your future happiness depends on how you choose to react when things go badly, when they don’t work out the way you think they should have done, or the way you believed you deserved – and you probably did!  Circumstances and market forces do not bow to our personal preferences or gently respond to our needs. It is us who must adapt, develop, adjust. 

Tough times never last, but tough people do. The toughest people are those who do not compromise their values and principles, yer are ready to bend their will and adjust to the strongest forces at work in our world.

Tough isn’t brittle. Tough does not mean ‘hard as nails’. Tough does not mean insensitive – though it probably does mean sensitive in the right place and a little less sensitive in the others.

Tough means being patient and kind. It means refusing to envy, boast or be proud. Being tough does not mean being rude or self-seeking. It means not being easily angered and keeping no record of wrongs. Scapegoats are not on the menu. Tough people do not delight in evil but go forth for the truth every time and are pleased when it triumphs. When you are tough you protect people, risk trusting them, maintain hope, persevere.

Tough means sticking with the vision, taking a lead, moving things forward. It can also mean stepping back from the plan for a time, allowing another person to take the lead, putting things on hold, accepting that this idea is not going to work.

We all admire the best sorts of toughness, yet both emotional and mental toughness, like human muscle, is only developed by working against the resistance of life – swimming upstream when it is easier to go with the flow.

Toughness will also involve a reduction in the popularity stakes. You will often be on your own. I’m not entirely sure which is the chicken and which is the egg, but toughness and aloneness usually go together pretty regularly.

Most people drift through life, taking the easier option. I think it was Walt Whitman who wrote

‘Two paths met in a wood, and I,

I took the path less travelled by.’

If you want a better life, to outrun the rat race, to enrich your life, don’t be seduced by the easier choices, go for the tougher ones, the ones that will truly develop you, challenge you, strengthen you, and empower you. Don’t try to buy your way out. Allow them to have their effect – co-operate with them. You will emerge a better person.

Failing is success trying to be born.

You’re only a ‘failure’ if you actually quit. 


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