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Life is hard, and it is easy to place the blame for our misfortunes and challenges on life’s circumstances.

There are times when this is accurate, as life does bring us situations that we never planned for and cannot seem to manage. However, there are other times when we are the cause of our challenges, and we often do not want to be accountable for our behaviors.

Adversity is a state or instance of serious or continued difficulty or misfortune (Merriam-Webster Dictionary). We may face specific life challenges which we endure for a season, such as relocating our homes, facing health issues, or getting new jobs. Or we may face deeper life challenges, that are much more difficult to endure and manage, such as losing everything to a home disaster, or getting in a serious car accident where we are left permanently injured.

Adversity is often perceived as the unexpected life challenge. These are the types of challenges that we do not ask for and also do not easily accept. We desperately try to get away from adverse circumstances, wanting to reclaim peace in our lives again. Sometimes our efforts are successful, and other times futile.

What about the adversity we cause for ourselves? See, this is something that often goes unnoticed, because adversity is often not seen this way.

Hmmm…a state or instance of serious or continued difficulty or misfortune…can you think of a time when a direct choice you made, led to adversity in your life? 

How about the ways you view, save, and spend money? 

Are your personal relationships often toxic? 

Do you take unnecessary and unsafe risks? 

Are you constantly making poor choices and acting in negative ways but blaming it all on “life”? 

These are just some examples to consider, to get your mind working on this notion of self-inflicted adversity. I am sure you could apply your own unique examples.

We are talking about how you decide to use the power you do have in life, to live your best life. Yes, we cannot control MANY factors and situations in life, but we do have control over our thoughts and actions. Instead of recognizing the power we do have, we surrender it all to “life” and blame all of our challenges on unexpected circumstances.

Money can be a major self-inflicted form of adversity:

  • Spending money like it grows on trees, or believing that you actually have a money tree.
  • Ignoring adult necessities like paying bills, monitoring credit, saving and investing.
  • Living like a billionaire, when you really only have $100 in your bank account.
  • Quitting your job with no valid reason or plan of action.
  • Going into major debt for things you do not need, just to look the part.

Toxic relationships are prone to self-inflicted adversity:

  • Remaining in dysfunctional relationships, despite all the signs to exit.
  • Returning to toxic people and patterns because it is familiar.
  • Never taking time to figure out who you are as person and what is best for you.
  • Buying into the myth: “somebody is better than nobody”. 
  • You are and have always been the toxic portion of the relationship, and refuse to be accountable for your actions and get the help you need.

Self-afflicted adversity includes taking unnecessary and unreasonable life risks:

  • Using drugs, alcohol, or any other substance as a regular means to cope, often increasing your dosages daily.
  • Scary physical behaviors that risk your safety in any way.
  • Engaging with people who have already demonstrated they mean you harm.
  • Ignoring life altering/saving medical advice or treatment, instead do nothing.

Cycles of poor decisions are also self-affliction:

  • Living your life in the past, for example: having a tough childhood that continues into adulthood simply because you continue to re-live it.
  • Even after facing consequences, continue making the same poor choices, repeatedly.
  • Your life mantra is that, “life is so unfair.”
  • A determination to live an undisciplined life.
  • A determination to act and think in negative ways, everyday, all the time.

I hope that the picture is much more clear now: there is a difference between adverse situations in life and self afflicted challenges in life.

You may be able to distinguish between adversity and self afflicted circumstances by asking yourself the following two questions: 

  1. Are you the direct cause of the circumstances? 
  2. Can you do anything to improve the situation? 

In adverse situations or seasons of our lives, we often face challenges beyond our control. These are unfortunate situations that often take us by surprise. Of course, considering that we are human, adverse situations may also occur due to mistakes we make, or original plans that fell through. In these cases, we pick ourselves up, dust off, and press through the challenge with a determination to make better choices in the future.

Self afflicted circumstances tend to be glaring. We quickly learn where we fell short, and people in our lives are also good are pointing this out. If we are stuck in negative behaviors in life, stuck in cycles of making bad decisions, avoiding accountability, ignoring red flags, etc., we should be able to assess that we aren’t taking appropriate action to improve our situation.

There is no guidebook or set of rules when it comes to life. However, we can always work to be better people, live positive lives, and improve the quality of our life. If we aimlessly live each day just waiting for life to be great, this is delusional. We must be intentional about our actions and thoughts in order to be active creators of the lives we desire.

If we find ourselves stressed out or facing challenges ALL the time, it may be worth taking some time to assess our lives. Are we facing these challenges based on factors outside of our control, or for reasons within our current behaviors? Then the next step is to determine what we can actively do to try to improve our circumstances. This might involve some very hard work, separating from certain people or environments, and making some serious life changes.

The more that we practice this type of self-reflection, the easier it becomes to stay on the path of making the best decisions we can, everyday. Will we make mistakes along the way? Of course. However, there is a striking difference between making a mistake and facing challenging circumstances vs. making bad choices (those that we know may not be in our best interests) and suffering the consequences, repeatedly.