On Whales and Adversity

I was having lunch with a friend when he said, “I think it’s wrong to kill whales.” I thought for a moment and replied, “Fair enough, but what if it is cultural? What if this assassin comes from a long line of whale hunters?” He shot back, “Then I guess it would be okay, but I think they should have to use technology from the 1800s because modern machinery is too efficient and I don’t want them hunted into oblivion.” Granted, this seems like a strange conversation, but most of our conversations are anything but ordinary. I responded with, “Haven’t you seen Moby Dick and all of that carnage with those primitive spears? And sometimes the whale gets away. You want an efficient killing device to minimize suffering if you are in the business of whale hunting.”

At that point he conceded, realizing that it would be preferable to be struck and killed by a car than to be butchered by Jack the Ripper. Mind you, I have no opinion one way or the other regarding hunting whales. I just naturally took a contrary stance for the sake of arguing. Also, I was curious to see if I could change his mind. I think our conversation then digressed into fruit bats, but it was far less interesting.

Upon reflection, I thought how fascinating it was that my friend so readily gave up his position and adopted an alternative view. It was so simple. He merely changed his mind!

I’ve dealt with crippling chronic pain for about ten years, and for eight of those I was entrenched in my belief that I was a victim of circumstances and there was nothing beyond this wall of pain. Eight years. And then I wasn’t a victim.

What changed?

Well, I still struggle with chronic pain every day. I’m still a cranky old man at the age of 44. Sometimes, especially in the evenings, I hobble around, so it seems that nothing has changed. Except that I changed my mind.

My wife and I have been following Dave Ramsey for a number of years to clean up our financial mess, but about two years ago, we began to see that there was an end in sight. That gave us hope. That hope in our financial lives spilled over into hope in other aspects of our lives. I may be a cripple, but I don’t have to be just a cripple.

I’m reminded of Henry Ford—“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t—you’re right.”

I’m not advocating that Stuart Smalley affirmations will change our lives, but I am suggesting that how we look at things can affect more than just our attitude. We can be defined by our infirmities or circumstances. We can also choose to look beyond them and strive for what we want to become.

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