Opposition is a curious thing. We frequently lament and complain about the presence of opposition in our lives, yet opposition—or resistance—is the only force by which we can improve our lives.
While on a drive across the country, I was listening to The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown. The Boys in the Boat is the remarkable story of the University of Washington’s eight-oar crew and their quest for gold in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. About a third of the way through the book, I heard a profound quote about resistance and how it actually supports us:
It is hard to make that boat go as fast as you want to. The enemy, of course, is resistance of the water, as you have to displace the amount of water equal to the weight of men and equipment, but that very water is what supports you and that very enemy is your friend. So is life: the very problems you must overcome also support you and make you stronger in overcoming them. (George Yeoman Pocock)We talk of heroes like Winston Churchill, George Washington, Nelson Mandela—and so many others—and glorify them because of their accomplishments. But their accomplishments were made possible by the resistance they encountered. Who would Winston Churchill be without World War II? Who would George Washington be without the Revolutionary War? Who would Nelson Mandela be without the struggle against Apartheid?
It should be noted, however, that encountering resistance doesn't automatically make us stronger. It is our determination to struggle against that resistance—to overcome our challenges—that makes us stronger. If we are to overcome our challenges, then we need to develop a certain measure of determination and grit—which, incidentally, is the next book on my list.
Strangely enough, if we want to move forward in life we should not only expect resistance but hope for it—for resistance is the only thing that can make us stronger.