I’d like to think I spend so much time in the gym because it represents a greater theme in my life. Just like resistance training with weights can promote growth, life’s resistance can promote opportunity and growth in becoming a better man. This seems to be true for survivors of life’s worst circumstances.
I was recently reading about PTG, or Posttraumatic Growth, which is defined as “positive change experienced as a result of the struggle with a major life crisis or a traumatic event.”
How can conflicts contribute to personal growth? Scientists “have discovered five particular areas of growth that often spring from adversity: interpersonal relationships, the identification of new possibilities for one’s life, personal strength, spirituality, [and] appreciation of life.”
Conflict plays an important part in our life stories. Movies and clearly reality shows with no conflict are boring. Obstacles provide an opportunity to become wise, refined, and improved.
I found the five areas of growth seen in posttraumatic scenarios seem to correspond to the seven stories that provide the background to every iconic movie, comic, or book.
Sir Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch proposed seven stories give the backbone to every plot: man against man, man against nature, man against himself, man against God, man against society, man caught in the middle, and man and woman.
Here’s how you can put conflict to work for you through the seven stories:
Man Against Man
No matter what you do, some people will not like you. Accept it. Grow from it.
Are you being bullied? Do you have a supervisor or teacher who picks on you? If so, this is an opportunity for you to improve yourself.
Your attitude matters more than the person or persons coming against you. I was faced with conflict from a manager at one point who attempted to smear my reputation at the company. I could’ve given up. Instead, I went over and beyond to prove my worth to the company. I finished #8 in the country that year, and grew tremendously as a salesman.
Man Against Nature
My favorite book is The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway. It’s a simple story about fisherman Santiago who’s been down on luck for years, struggles against and catches a prize-winning Marlin, only to have it progressively eaten by sharks. He returns with a large skeleton.
Something awakens within me, though, when I read this book because it represents much more. Triumph over nature can be one of the greatest forms of self improvement, and is largely why Man vs. Wild has been such a popular show.
You can gain something by adventuring in the outdoors. When’s the last time you’ve gone camping, fishing, hiking, or rock climbing?
Man against Himself
One Disney movie gets me every time…The Lion King. Simba thinks he’s killed his father, and finds two new friends who help him forget all of his problems. But, when he finds out his homeland has been destroyed, he realizes he can no longer hide from his shame. His true identity is the king of the lion pride. In the end, he becomes a powerful leader like his father.
Stories about overcoming fear, addiction, and shame are some of the most powerful ones. When you overcome a personal hurdle, your story has the ability to inspire countless others.
I recently got an email from a reader who asked for a prayer to help him get a girl. I wrote to him and told him to ask this question in his prayer: “What areas of my life do I need to work on to be the best man for my future wife?”
Man against God
Internally, I’ve struggled with God many times over. In the book of Genesis, one story describes how Jacob received a blessing in his conflict with God.
After a full night of fighting, the man asked Jacob to release him from his grip. But Jacob said, “Not until you bless me.”
Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God…and have overcome.”
Jacob was given a new name, and therefore a new identity.
Countless stories in the Bible show men and women who struggle interpersonally with the Supreme Being. You have something to gain by asking questions and waiting.
Man against Society
Progress and innovation don’t happen if people only abide by the norm. Some of the greatest men and women are those who saw an injustice and fought against society to help others, often at a great price.
Civil rights activists, revolutionaries, and everyday heroes have helped create a better world. Schindler’s List depicts Oskar Schindler, an industrialist and member of the Nazi party, who goes against the Nazi regime to save the lives of over one thousand Jews from the holocaust camps. He sees the humanity of a people demonized by his fellow patriots and goes bankrupt trying to save their lives. At the end of the movie, before he must flee the country, the people he’s saved give him a ring with the expression,
Whoever saves one life saves the world entire.
You don’t have to start a non profit or become a social worker to change the world. You can do it by helping one person in front of you today. Volunteering and serving your community will shape you into a better man.
Man and Woman
In every conflict, you need an ally. Yesterday, Kristen and I shared a video on The 7 Do’s of Love. She talked about how she becomes a “mama bear” when someone tries to undermine someone she loves. Who you choose to spend the rest of your life with is an important one.
I love this quote from Dr. Judith Rich:
People who prevail and get to the other side of hard times do so because they discover a part of themselves they didn’t know they had.
No matter what you’re going through, you always have room to grow.