Focus | Glory’s struggles
I watch many documentaries – especially ones about people who achieved greatness in their craft. I find them simply fascinating. Martin Luther King Jr., Luther Vandross, Michael Jordan, Stevie Wonder, Clarence Avant, Quincy Jones, John F. Kennedy, Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston, Abraham Lincoln, Prince, Michael Jackson, Martin Luther, Mother Theresa, Hallie Berry, Theodore Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and so many others.
As I read or watch these biographies, one thing repeats itself time and time again: none of these great ones come to their glory without struggle. Each and every one of them, at some point and at some level of their lives, faced personal struggle.
Some had childhood demons that they could not exorcise. Others found those demons in their adulthood; be it drugs, alcohol, sex or physical abuse. Yet others battled insecurities that seem to defy the greatness to which they had ascended. A few of them were overcome by their struggles, even as their brilliance was made manifest. For each person, this much appeared true: glory and struggle went hand-in-hand. Maybe more importantly, struggle is part of human existence, no matter how far above it we seem to rise. As was said by the Greek philosopher Epicurus, “The greater difficulty, the more glory in surmounting it. Skillful pilots gain their reputation from storms and tempests.”
Perhaps too many of us think that struggle is a curse, a sign that we have let God down and therefore we should be punished. Perhaps we get this from the opening book of the Bible where Adam and Eve seemed to inherit struggle because of their fall. Perhaps this is true but what is also true is that even the innocent struggle. Babies come to this planet with diseases, deformities and debilitations that have nothing to do with any misdeed on their part. Even babies without abnormalities struggle as they grow to move, learn and get along; it is not sin that causes this but their lack of knowledge and skill in many instances. Struggle seems inherent in the reality of the mortal, limited, learning and, yes, flawed beings. It is present in all parts of the animal kingdom, and we human animals are no exception.
Maybe we shouldn’t welcome struggle but neither should we be surprised or bemused by it. No matter where we go in the world, near or far, and no matter how much we achieve in the world, small or great, perhaps we should expect struggle to be with us always. We should expect that we will fail at some things and we should expect that some things will fail us. We should expect to fail some people and we should expect some people will fail us. We can especially think this way since our lives and the lives of so many other people we know show this. When we work through our struggles, we get strong.
In the end, glory is the manifested strength of our potential. What we believe, look at, and admire is what happens when we work through our struggles to achieve the purpose for which we were created. Musical, medical, movie-making or mountain-climbing brilliance is what happens when you pay the price to rise above the many challenges of achieving that excellence. It is the story, the one that proceeds your glory, that is filled with life’s lessons. We are so often preoccupied with the glory, we cannot help ourselves; we love shining objects, that we fail to pay comparable attention to the story; the wise among us know that therein is where glory’s path is hidden. They also come to know that, invariably, it is a path paved by struggle. Glory’s struggle is real, and the path to greatness is paved with it. This is not one for the faint of heart but for the courageous. May God help us all to be courageous.
• Zhivargo Laing is a Bahamian economic consultant and former Cabinet minister who represented the Marco City constituency in the House of Assembly.