Some people say adversity is a character builder. They think that struggle makes us better people.
But if struggle and adversity were really character builders, does that mean not having to struggle makes us less noble and virtuous?
Case in point—if you were struggling financially where you lived, and you saw that the cost of living someplace else was significantly less…and the weather was better…and the infrastructure and services were adequate for your needs…would it be more noble and virtuous to struggle where you are, or to move to where the living is easy?
I’m actually asking myself that question right now, and I’ve already made the move. I’m living at this very moment in a place where the climate is so comfortable and the cost of living is so low that it actually makes me wonder if I’m being a slacker of some kind. It makes me wonder if I’m somehow a less noble person because I don’t have to struggle at all to live here, because it’s that easy.
But if I think about it long enough, I realize that seeing struggle as a character builder is simply making a virtue out of a necessity. Almost all of us struggle financially at one time or another…that’s just a fact of life for most of us.
Viewing financial hardship as a character builder probably helps us feel better and get through the struggle, but it’s kind of like feeling noble and virtuous about dressing warmly in a cold climate or seeking shelter from a storm. These are things you do as a matter of course when you live in cold, stormy places…nothing makes the actions inherently virtuous or noble, and doing them doesn’t make you any wiser or more skillful than you’d otherwise be.
In fact, I think the “struggle is virtuous” point of view actually has things backward.
I think the virtuous and ennobling thing—the human thing—is actually being wise and skillful enough to avoid unnecessary struggles in the first place.
After all, human history and the story of civilization is pretty much just the story of people migrating around the world, looking for and building better, easier, more comfortable places to live.
That’s not being a slacker. That’s being human…having the wisdom to know when needless struggles can be avoided and having the imagination and skills to avoid them.
The more I think about it, the more sense this makes, especially for retirees and near-retirees like me and you who have been working and struggling all our lives anyway. Once that lifetime of workplace struggle is over, does it make any sense to think that we need even more “character building” by staying where costs are high and weather is bad? Does it make any sense to think that staying put instead of moving where the living is easy is the better part of valor?
I don’t think so. I think we’ve struggled enough. I think we deserve to live where the living is easy. In fact, I think it’s high time we did.
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