Many things seem similar at first, but really have a world of difference. For example…Mike and Neil deGrasse Tyson or Cookie Monster and a Cookie from the TV show Empire.
A much less funny example can be found in pain or hardship. We all experience pain — physically, emotionally, mentally — but not all pain is created (or felt) equal.
Take physical pain. A professional baseball player may miss a few games because of elbow pain…or he may retire. In regards to mental pain, a man who is fired by his longtime employer may update his resume…or he may give up on the idea of finding another job.
I recognize there are some obvious factors that come into play in the examples of pain I gave. The baseball player’s decision to retire or come back after treatment depends on many things — extent of damage, stage of career and history of injuries. The fired worker’s decision is likely traced to age, profession, and need for money.
But more than those things, the differences between getting back on our feet or rolling over can be traced to one thing…hope.
The baseball player who retires has no hope for improvement, treatment or a comeback. The unemployed man lacks hope in finding work. What causes people to lose hope?
In her book, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perservance, Angela Duckworth may have the answer when she says,
It isn’t suffering that leads to hopelessness. It’s suffering you think you can’t control.”
The reason we lose hope is because we start to believe we have no control — no control over our career or our relationship. A baseball player who hurts his elbow comes back when he knows he controls his ability to rejoin the team. An unemployed man keeps submitting his resume when he knows he controls his ability to find another job.
When we start to feel we have no control over our ability to heal and start anew, the difference between small pain and crippling pain is as big as the one between Mike and Neil deGrasse Tyson.