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.
My Nana used to say “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle”. When my husband had his accident, that quote haunted me. I felt like I was being punished for being a strong person. I looked at the families around me… and I wondered… if this happened to their husband/father… could they handle it? I found that the answer in my world was “no”. So, is there a punishment for being strong? Do the weak have it easy since they cannot handle such turmoil? I see those who seem to live “charmed” lives, and I cannot help but wonder why some of us most struggle daily. I believe any family that has the unfortunate event of sustaining a TBI with one of their own will stay strong or eventually fall apart. You are staying strong. I look at your blog every couple of days and hope that the next time I open it up, I will hear about a miracle. I hope your miracle comes. Perhaps, there is an end game….. like a reward for staying strong.
I really like your commentary on this Nietzsche quote. If if this quote helps some people, that’s great, but personally it has never helped me. I agree with your opinion. Anyone who has ever experienced the death of a child or diagnosis of a fatal disease isn’t likely to be made stronger. Most of us move through, but I have never spoken with one person who tells me that they have become stronger, except for possibly strengthening their faith in God through prayer that helps them move through. Many of us give Him credit for getting us through this devastating grief. Another one I hear a lot is, “The Lord gives troubles to those he loves best!” This might be a Southern MD thing, but hmm… …so that’s what’s going on right now in my life and the lives of those I love and care about. Not so sure He loves me thiiis much! ;)”Everything happens for a reason?” We won’t even go there!
Quotes like this, although not well thought out, are spoken as words of comfort with the hope that the suffering individual will be made stronger. If only it were true! God, not troubles, makes us stronger through our faith and hope in Him. Ken, in my feeble attempts to comfort you and your family over the past 3 years, I have probably written the same words again and again. Sometimes I can’t find words; I just sit here and cry out to God for His help. And I sincerely believe you are getting His help through Team Diviney. What great support is given! 🙂
Hope Ryan is feeling better each day. Love and prayers. SHSP, NEGA XXXX
Sam Masters Durham via Facebook says
Just like “everything happens for a reason”. Makes my blood boil.
Dennis Allen says
you are so right… that is a stupid things to say especially on this blog. They should switch places with Ryan for a day and see how strong that makes them.
Will Niermeyer says
Friedrich Nietzsche also said that God is dead and the churches are his empty tomb.
He wanted to reduce everything to science and rationalism. Only those two things can explain our existance.
FOr me I know God lives. SOmetimes what happens in our lives is very hard to swallow but He is there in our midst having suffered all just to give us strength as we walk our path on Earth.
My prayers continue for Ryan and his family. God is in your midst.
Keri Dezell says
I believe that where you’re at in life, is what dictates your response to such statements…
I used to wholeheartedly believe, that if you do the right thing, the right thing happens. I lived by this “motto” and felt that my adult life and its surroundings were reflective of that statement… it worked for me, until my then 8yr old son was diagnosed with two types of pediatric cancer. All of a sudden, this “motto” of mine was the epitome of ridiculous and served me no purpose. It no longer applied. It required me to change my thinking and to search deeper so that I could live within and more importantly, rise above the hell surrounding me in my “new life”. If our son, was to survive, we had to find a way to persevere. It was at this moment, that I realized the irony of my new struggle… the very thing, that with every fiber of my being, I was trying to preserve for my baby, was the very thing that put him in this horrific predicament- it was called LIFE. And LIFE brings with it, an ever changing moving landscape of the good, the bad and the ugly. That without such things, we would never have the need or the know-how to rise above, to move forward but would instead, be meandering around this earth bored to tears. Having said that, I would have given ANYTHING for my baby not to have to be the one to endure the bad and the ugly… ANYTHING. I would give ANYTHING, for him not to be the one to “teach” the masses, (and I’m sure that you feel the same way about Ryan) but, much to my horror I realize that in LIFE, as long as there is LIFE, it has to be someone. Good GOD. WTF? How does anyone work within the confines of that knowledge, especially when it’s our children that are the ones suffering?? In my case, you turn to GOD and you come up with a new motto to cling too, “Like it or not, sh*t happens. It’s called LIFE. So, what are you going to do about it? Dig deep and let your life reflect the answer.”
and in my opinion that is exactly what the DIVINEY Family is showing each of us over and over again. How to do it right. How to stand back up when everything inside of you wants to give in and crumble… and much to your dismay Ken, it is the relentless actions of you and your family, completely motivated by the love for your RYAN, that breaths new life into the phrase, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” A treasured and much needed gift to the ears of some.
Keep up the good work DIVINEY family and in the meantime, I’ll be praying for your continued strength and wisdom and as always, for Ryan’s progress bringing him to a place of complete healing. Please GOD.
With love and in prayer,
Keri, MY C.F. FRANKIE and Family
If LIFE can bring you to it, God can bring you through it. Amen.
I can remember a a little girl my Grandmother, who had a saying for everything. She used this phrase frequently, If it doesn’t kill you it makes you stronger. I guess I never saw anything negative about it, because it was Grandma telling me in her way to deal with whatever I was complaining about at the time. My problems and most people that have problems have no idea what your load is like Ken. I know many of us say things and don’t analyze exactly what we’re saying it just comes out of our(my) mouths.
Zenda Stevens Foy via Facebook says
huh. my comment disappeared. will try again later. i empathize with you, though.
I agree with you whole heartedly. Now that I think about it, anything I’ve ever been through in my life (minor to your family’s tragedy by the way) if someone had said that to me I would have done my best to gouge their eyes out and ask them how strong they felt now. It really is an insensitive statement that thank God I have never uttered in my life but have heard on occasion.
I enjoy reading your blogs. I laugh with you and cry with you. And I totally enjoy being a smarty pants audience of yours. You, Sue, Ryan, and Kari are always in my prayers. Thank you for posting those pictures over the last few days. They really show how handsome Ryan is and how loving and connected to each other your family is. It does my heart good to see the love you guys have for each other.
In defense of that expression, though, it really depends on how you interpret and apply it. I think a lot of people use it to mean that some extremely challenging circumstances which might literally destroy certain people or families can bring out the best in others, if they’re willing to make the commitment to stick together and do the hard work to survive and overcome those challenges. I think that’s what Team Diviney sees and admires in your family. The strength and resolve you demonstrate in loving and caring for Ryan inspire us to be better husbands, wives, parents and siblings in our own families. No offense intended!
Yep… it’s the context. When this is not defined then the expression cannot stand on it’s own.
Mary Turner via Facebook says
You totally changed my perspective on this quote that is used so often. I like how you wrote it cut and dry and black and white, no bullshit behind it.
Gail Doyle says
Ken, A lot of things that happen don’t kill you ,but I don’t know how they make you stronger either. Sometime,I think people make statements that might sound good to them and true ,but certainly doesn’t apply to all.
How is Ryan and is he healing good from surgery? Just incredible all the signatures so far on petition..We have to keep sharing and telling people…So simple to sign:)Thanks.
Hoping for a calm day for you all
Incisions are healing wonderfully. They look great.
Please keep sharing the petition. We are closing in on 29,000.
Hi Ken, you did a great job dissecting that old cliche. I think you’re right, people do use it to get through awful times … and … your comment that we can be left feeling weaker, etc. — is true. Depending on the moment or the day, physically/emotionally weaker, less hopeful, more sad, angry, … a bit broken, really. I’m just glad we’ve all got each other and don’t have to get through by ourselves, even though there are still those days when you feel completely alone. I can’t handle it, I have to get on my knees and ask God for help. Sometimes I feel like He’s the only one who understands…or maybe that’s me not being charitable enough to others….wow, it’s a bright sunny day, but why does it feel like there’s a waterfall of tears pouring through my soul? I appreciate you being willing to talk about these things. That’s just another reason people keep coming back … welcome to Ken Diviney’s blog, you have now entered the NO B.S. zone!!
Sending you love, hugs, hope because I do still have it…and faith, cuz I ain’t letting go of that for nothin : ) xoxoxo
Ryan's Rally: We Got This via Facebook says
Just listened to the song. She should really do her research before using it out of context.
Good Luck to Ryan and all of his family .. You all are in our prayers may god bless you all .. I signed
Rita Caporicci Hoop via Facebook says
That expression is so popular right now because of Kelly Clarkson’s hit song (“What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger”), a self pep talk anthem much like Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” from our great musical decade of the 80s. I agree that it is overused and not always accurate. But you Divineys will survive, one day at a time, and we’re here to support you any way we can <3