Do We Need Adversity to Grow?

I’ve been thinking a lot about this topic.  My last AND next teleconfrance is on this issue because there’s a lot of meat on the bone for us here I think.

I recently posed the above question “do we need adversity to grow” on, a web based community that is “connecting the millions touched by disability.” 

Here’s my post to disaboom.

Here’s a question I’ve been thinking a lot about recently:

“Do we need adversity to grow?”

Could it be that we NEED experiences, even, maybe, a bit of adversity, to grow to our fullest?  It proved to be true for the trees in Biosphere II after all.  If you don’t recall, Biosphere II was the multi-million-dollar project of a  totally enclosed ecosystem.  What happened was the trees in the simulated rain forest grew to a pretty good height and then became top heavy and fell over.  What Scientists later figured out is that the trees needed wind.  They need the resistance of the wind to help strengthen their trunks.  Without wind, they were weak, and they fell. 

What do we need?  

Would love to hear what you think,






Below are some some of the comments I’ve recieved and my responses to them.  I would love for you to share your thoughts as well. 



d wrote: I suppose I’ve always believed the adage “That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.” Not necessarily in the physical sense, but in the sense of developing inner strength, to be able to mentally and emotionally deal with all that life has to offer, both good and bad.




Rachel: At first I had the thought that every experience, thoughtfully evaluated, has within it the power to help use grow. Then I thought, it’s been the more challenging experances, and the times in which I’ve stuck my neck out in the pursuit of something meaningful to me that has shaped me as a person the most.


So as much as I would like to think that adage is silly, I think there really is something to it d.


d: I’ve had my share of adversity, and if you compared me to a tree, I suppose my trunk would look scarred and burned in places, my branches twisted and misshapen, some pruned off completely. But, a tree that is still managing to stand, nonetheless. I also believe that some trees that may not be as physically strong as others can still thrive and grow stronger with the help of the surrounding trees that help to protect them when things are too harsh, or provide “leaning posts” to keep them from falling. Of course, in this analogy, the surrounding trees would be loved ones/caregivers, assistance devices, and faith.


R: So wonderfully expressed!


d: The tree analogy makes an excellent one. Have you ever seen a tree or plant grown in zero gravity,away from natural light and normal surroundings? They grow in peculiar shapes, often stunted and never blooming or reaching anything like their full potential. They are grown in a vacuum, with no outside influences or forces to help them develop. I’d compare this to a person that becomes withdrawn and reclusive, keeping only to him or herself, without contact by “outside forces” (people, life and everyday experiences in general) that might nurture them into something more.


R: Interestingly a tree that stands alone is much more vulnerable than a tree in a forest. Maybe we need some kind of balance of adversity and security.


d: As a person, and not a tree, I personally feel that I need to be challenged on occasion, just to keep my muscles toned in order to face the big winds. Then again, she whined to all who would listen, I don’t want it always to be difficult. It would be nice to just be able to coast once in a while, too, and not have even the simplest thing turn into an all-week project.


R: Boy do I hear you there! “I want to grow to my fullest potential, but I sure wish it didn’t have to hurt any.”


d: Interesting topic, by the way. I’m looking forward to reading the other responses!

R: Thanks me too!

I also wonder, if we don’t have “adversity” tossed in our laps, do people go and seek it? You know like with extreme sports or drug use. I know substance abuse can be used for a pain-killer. And we all seeming to agree it’s in part the pain that makes us strong.


But I wonder, do you suppose that some people use drugs more as a pain creator? I don’t know.



T wrote: I was watching the Matrix again for the first time in years the other night (to lazy to go rent something newer, I suppose) and was struck by some of the dialogue: Agent Smith said that the first version of their world had been a disaster because everything was perfect and that the second version was much better because it had pain and suffering and that people somehow needed the pain and suffering. I thought that was very interesting.



R: I love when a topic like this and popular culture come together in the the same mixing bowl. Thanks for the great example T.




T: Looking at it from that angle raises a companion question to the one you asked: Is it possible to grow to one’s fullest potential without ever experiencing pain/suffering/adversity? I’m not sure that it is.


R: I’m not sure it is either. Heck, think about it, doctors whack us on our behinds to get us to breath. It starts early.


T: Perhaps adversity is part of the human condition and without it we’d be incomplete.


R: Right like d said, like the trees that grew in zero gravity without some kind of adversity.


Seems like my blog post only be so long, so I’ll create a second one with more of the disaboom comments.





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