There are few, and maybe no other, expressions I despise more than “Whatever doesn’t kill me, makes me stronger.. I see it all the time on FaceBook and Twitter; usually just this vague statement, and nothing more. Each time I do it stirs my outrage. I must do everything I can not to write back.
Really? One need look no further than Ryan to prove its absurdity.
You just need to find yourself on the other side of a coma to see how incredibly ridiculous and insensitive this really is. For the most part, this is young person’s take because they feel invincible. As we get older, I’m guessing before we hit thirty years old, we learn of our vulnerabilities and most of us throw this out an any sort of inspiration. By the age of forty most recognize the foolishness in it.
It goes to show you, beliefs are funny things. They can always be changed.
If we really think about it — I mean really, really think about it — it is oftentimes more accurate that whatever doesn’t kill you makes you weaker. Certainly on a physical level. That’s a fact. It expends energy, drains the mind, and taxes resources. It gets a little more philosophical when it applies to the spiritual, emotional, or cognitive. Still, I bet the victim of bullying or abuse doesn’t buy into this at any level.
That which doesn’t kill me, leaves me in a persistent vegetative state.
Oh yes, I hold a special contempt for the whatever doesn’t kill me crowd.
I ran down the origin of this quote. It was made by German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844 – 1900), in his 1889 book Twilight of the Idols. The ironic thing from what I researched is, Nietzsche lived a miserable life.
Anyhow, his quote was used in a military context, but people now seem to believe it applies to all aspects of life. By the way, I see fault in his logic even as it applies to the military. This is the same guy who made at least one other outlandish maxim, “Which is it? Is man only God’s mistake or God only man’s mistake?”. He is also the source of “He who laughs last [today] will also laugh best” (the modern of this “He who laughs last, laughs hardest”), which is also flawed.
I didn’t reject this whatever doesn’t kill me premise outright, mind you… I get it. People know, deep down, this statement isn’t always the case (even the young). They use it to get themselves through rough times. I suppose it is occasionally true and holds some value. If it applies then have at it, but at least tell us why. Put it in context. Otherwise its meaning is lost in its generality. For example, I would agree that this absolutely applies to genetics and immunity of a species. The ability to defeat a killer disease certainly improves the strength and survivability of the species. This is the only absolute that I can find.
I love that I am able to write about such topics because the readers of this website are a wise audience. Smarty-pants, to be precise.