“If it doesn’t kill you, it makes you stronger!” – I grew up from childhood with that saying drilled into my psyche.
This is actually a quote from Friedrich Nietzsche. Most people don’t know this. I didn’t. He said it this way: “That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.”
Though Nietzche made this statement, and undoubtedly believed it at the time, he ultimately would be stricken by an unresolved psychosis and his mental capacity would completely fade away in his 40’s, an atheist suffering and dying from an undocumented mental illness. That which didn’t kill him made him weaker, and ultimately did kill him.
Another famous philosopher/psychologist, Victor Frankl, wrote: “The way in which a man accepts his fate and all the suffering it entails, the way in which he takes up his cross, gives him ample opportunity – even under the most difficult circumstances to add a deeper meaning to his life.”
Frankl would not only live well into his 90’s, but he would survive the Holocaust, and indeed this experience would shape his entire lifetime of thought and therapy.
Frankl interestingly also penned these words: “Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of Man is through love and in love.”
One of my personal take-aways from this dichotomy would be that love and compassion should be first and foremost, especially for those suffering among us. That suffering can and does make us stronger at times, but it also hurts and kills us as well. And that the love we share in suffering is indeed what makes us stronger.
We should endeavor to find meaning in the often apparent meaningless of life through and in Love (which Frankl sees as the essence of the SuperBeing, God), rather than resorting to individual positivism and the false sense of “God is Dead” and that we have to make it on our own.