"Challenges" is too weak a word to deal with some situations that are actually "obstacles" in our way. But we can succeed in spite of them.
Reprinted from The Corner Desk newsletter, January 2002. All rights reserved.
Is anyone else tired of being told there's no such thing as an obstacle, that everything should be considered a challenge? If I hear that one more time myself, I may scream. The truth is: life is full of obstacles. Just ask a 2-year-old who can't do what she wants to do because some giants prevent her at every turn. Ask the single mom who can't go to school to learn job skills because there's no transportation or child care available. Or the young man confined to a wheelchair who can't negotiate the curbs in the neighborhood because the city never got around to sloping them at intersections. Those are not challenges, my friends; those are obstacles!
Or ask the 17-year-old who can't pursue any of her career choices because the so-called guidance counselor at her high school says, "People like you are a burden on society. You'll never qualify for higher education, so forget about such silliness." Or the wife whose abusive husband tells her she's stupid and is only on earth to serve him and his needs. After either one of those individuals has broken her spirit, it may be decades before she recovers her nerve to try anyway, and by then half a lifetime has been wasted. Those few existing fairy godmothers are awfully busy people and just don't get around to every individual, young and old, who so desperately needs them.
On the other hand, anyone or anything can look like a failure in the middle. Life is full of obstacles that defeat us at every turn. We need to find ways around them, under them, over them, or when all else fails, straight through them. And the bigger the hole we leave in our wake, probably the better, the constructive "I'll show them!" of final frustration. It's always better to use love to overcome enemies, but some people only respond to being metaphorically hit in the head with a 2" x 4" (not referring to a modified SUV). Certain people come from backgrounds or cultures who only respect those who shove back. This means that, for our own protection and that of our families, we sometimes need to caber toss those people who step in our face at every turn! I'm not talking about breaking the law or assaulting someone, as shortsighted, hate-filled people too often do, but each one of us must stand up for ourselves and our dreams. No one can just lie down in the road and wait to be run over again by the same berserk steamroller, or spiked by the same zealot.
Finally, as Dr. Bertice Berry* believes, "use obstacles to change yourself and it will change everyone who comes behind you. Don't get caught in the past! Don't let your abuse abuse other people. Don't keep picking at scabs. Just move forward!" Move forward with love, with great humor and with determination. Persistence and determination will get you from where you are to where you want to be, or very close to it.
* Bertice Berry, Ph.D is the author of Redemption Song and The Haunting of Hip Hop, among other enlightening works, and is a highly acclaimed motivational speaker and humorist. For more information, visit http://www.berticeberry.com/