By Prospero E. Pulma Jr.
Inquirer News Service
THEY say that adversity brings out the best and the worst in men. What they fail to mention is that it is also a great teacher. When caught in any adverse situation, we tend to focus only on overcoming it. We often overlook the importance of learning from the problem. And when we are battered by another storm, we act like sailors who have never sailed on a stormy sea and not mariners hardened by countless storms.
In my 25 years of existence, I've had my share of problems, although I have not yet turned into a certified survivor and a veteran of a thousand tribulations. But in spite of my lack of experience, I've picked up a number of lessons from the School of Adversity and Tribulation.
The first lesson that I have learned is that a man is fortunate if half of the people who knew him at the zenith of his career do not desert him when he hits rock bottom. It takes a visit by the gods of misfortune to unmask fair-weathered friends and relatives and test the loyalty of those who understand the real meaning of friendship and kinship. They were right when they said that in prosperity, your friends will know you and in adversity, you will know your friends.
I have also learned that famine can render a man's tongue insensitive to the foul taste of spoiled food. When our refrigerators are bursting with provisions, we spoil our taste buds by eating only the most delicious and preferably the most expensive food. When poverty empties our cupboards and refrigerators, we are forced to eat food that would never touch our lips in better times.
Being perennially broke, I have learned to appreciate the value of a peso and save for a rainy day. But don't pity me because I am parsimonious and I know how to live within my means. Pray instead for the paupers who are already living like kings. If they will not mend their ways, bankruptcy will force them to tighten their belts with painful and sometimes permanent results.
I have also learned that adversity can effectively deflate a proud man's ego. Success, wealth and power can make a person believe that he is a demigod until he is demoted to the ranks of ordinary mortals when he fails. Then he will realize that like all men, he is bound to commit a major blunder once or twice in his life. That history is littered with the names of mighty and proud men who were brought down to their knees by a single mistake is a lesson that the more gifted among us should never forget.
Adversity, like death, is a great equalizer. The only difference between the two is that we only die once while we are buffeted by many problems while we live. Even though nobody is assured of living a trouble-free life, some of us are given a heavier burden to carry than others. This unequal allocation of misfortune can be negated by how we deal with the challenges that are hurled at us. That is why some people triumph over impossible odds while others keel over after suffering a brief bout of bad luck.
Adversity is like a double-edged sword that can bring both harm and good. Some people emerge from a turbulent chapter of their lives stronger and wiser while others become weaker and more stupid. It is unfortunate that only a few of us care to etch the lessons learned from adversity in their minds.
Adversity is like a scar that reminds us of the pain that we felt when our skin was cut instead of warning us not to get wounded again.
Prospero E. Pulma Jr., 25, works as an editor of medical insurance claims at Cybersoft Data Networks Inc. He is also an undergraduate in Medicine.
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