The more I mature, the less I gravitate towards the idea of struggle. Now I know we live in a world that expects, and to a certain extent, respects—glorifies even, the struggle. I mean, it’s become a pop catch phrase: The struggle is real. Really real. We hear it in every day language: “You have to pay your dues.” “Nothing good comes easy.” “Hard work is the key to success.” Yet none of those things actually mean that struggle need be involved. Hard work doesn’t have to involve struggle. Paying your dues doesn’t mean you have to struggle before something works in your favor.
The word struggle means to contend with an adversary or opposing force; or to advance with violent effort. Now I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t sound very pleasant to me. It actually sounds like it should be avoided. But somehow, we live in a world that actually respects a struggle. We love a story of struggle. It’s what we respect. And it doesn’t matter the area in which it lies. The athlete who overcame all the odds. The entrepreneur who struck it rich after facing foreclosure and bankruptcy. The woman who finally found love after being dogged and abused. It’s what we love! They overcame their struggles! Which is why we diminish the ones we feel didn’t struggle for it. The millionaire who we know inherited money, even if that trust fund baby used their money wisely to make more millions? Nah. Not so much. After all, they didn’t really do anything.
Years ago, when my father’s career was taking off, he sat me down and talked with me about the idea of struggle. He said to me,
“I need you to understand something. You are about to be hated. You’re going to be hated for no reason other than the fact that you’re mine. People will look at you and only know that you’re mine. And from that they will conclude that you’ve had it too easy. See me? They respect me because I started from nothing and built this. But you? Not you. You they will hate. They will talk about you. And they will do it because I take good care of you.” He went on to say, “The crazy thing is, if I don’t take good care of you, they’ll talk about me and say, ‘That’s a damn shame Bernie Mac don’t take care of his daughter.’ And that just shows you how crazy people are. But no matter what, nothing you do will be good enough. Because to the world, you didn’t have to work hard enough for it. You didn’t earn it.”
I’ll admit that at the time, I thought he was crazy. I had a somewhat Pollyana-esque view on life. I loved everybody and everything and just thought everyone else did too. But experience has shown me that my father may have known what he was talking about. Now, I’d probably never admit this if he were alive. However, that’s another experience that has changed me a bit. I don’t have a problem admitting today that he may have been right. And I know everyone doesn’t think this way. But I’ve encountered more than my fair share of people—including some relatives—who have this view that I’ve had it easy because my father is who he is. Those people have deemed me a spoiled brat who has never wanted for anything. That’s not the case. I’ve had my share of struggles. I’ve experienced heart ache. I’ve lost out on jobs. I’ve had my very own Judas’ who have stabbed me in the back. I’ve had money problems because let’s face it, my father was famous and rich; I wasn’t, and currently am not.
And even as I say that, I know there are people who will still think, “Oh please! Cry me river.” Well I can’t. I’m currently dehydrated. So there! (wink). Anyhoo, my point is that this notion of struggle is something I can’t get with. As I think over the struggles in my life, I must admit that I played a major part in each one. And perhaps I wouldn’t have struggled so much if I’d made the simple choice to swim with my obstacle instead of choosing to swim against it.
My dad finished our talk by saying,
“People love a ghetto story. And the fact is that we all have a ghetto story. Every person in the world has had their share of problems that they overcame. Overcoming the problems doesn’t have to be their whole life. So don’t you worry about what anyone else says. You have worked hard. And you know something? You will continue to work hard. That’s what will get you to whatever you want.”
My dad was a very wise man. And while we didn’t always agree when he was here, we can definitely agree on this. Hard work is essential to get what I want in life; be it career, relationships, money, and spiritual enlightenment. I’m going to need to discipline myself, and work for it. But that work doesn’t mean I have to struggle. And I may have some challenges along the way. But again, challenges don’t have to mean struggle. And while I’m at it, let me just ask a few questions. Why is it easier to believe that the good you want can’t come with ease? Why must it come by scraping your knuckles against the concrete? And why must it be deemed less valuable if it doesn’t come complete with the struggle?
My soul rejects the idea that I must struggle for the life that I want. I believe in a benevolent, loving God/Universe/Creator (call it whatever you want). I believe that I am a Divine being created for greatness. While I have faced many challenges in my life, and know that I will face more; I recognize that the challenges didn’t necessarily have to be a struggle. Had I not resisted, but instead simply accepted the challenges, my life would have flowed so much more easily than it had. I know that in the future, if I simply ebb and flow with the tides, the future challenges won’t be a struggle. Believe what you will, but I for one believe that life is much more simple than we make it. I know that simple and easy aren’t necessarily synonymous, but life not being easy is still not equivalent to life needs to involve struggle. But that’s just me.
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