“What does not destroy me makes me stronger.” – Friedrich Nietzsche
SEL Connection: Every student struggles. There is struggle in school, at home, in sports and in relationships. Students learn a great deal about themselves when they are put in situations where they must struggle to get something they want. The hard part, of course, is that failure almost always accompanies struggle. When failure arrives, some quit. Others persevere. Those who persevere often say that the whole experience made them stronger and better equipped to deal with future struggle. Ask teachers what they think is the single-most important quality in students, many will say that it is this capacity to struggle and endure through failure.
And so it is with life, because struggle doesn’t end in the classroom. It has just begun. There is a lot at stake with this theme.
(1) Claim: Nietzsche is suggesting that there is no better feeling than surviving some sort of traumatic event and emerging from it feeling more powerful than you were before. It could be a relationship break up; a defeat in sports; or it could be that job promotion you weren’t able to get. The negative event didn’t destroy you. On the contrary, it puts you in the position of greater strength and increases your capacity for success. It’s a lot like working out. When you put your body through pain you’re also giving it permission to emerge stronger once the recovery process is over.
(2) Counterclaim: There are other events— like abuse, an unexpected death, a relationship break-up— that don’t seem to have the same sort of affect on you. They bury your soul and take away your strength in a way where it never seems like you’re going to be recapture the vitality you once had.
Students are no stranger to difficult times. If you have developed a comfortable environment in class, it’s important to ask them about their struggles. This essential question can be a road map:
(3) Essential Question: Do hardship and struggle make us stronger people?