In 300 B.C., the Chinese philosopher Mencius taught that one prospers during calamities and hardship, but perishes when living in ease and comfort. He said that when Heaven is about to confer great responsibilities to a person, the individual must have gone through suffering and physical hardship, have been exposed to hunger and poverty, and experienced disorder in their life. All these circumstances stimulate the mind, harden one’s nature, and develop their potential.
Mencius believed that humans make mistakes, but they can later correct themselves based on their past experiences. When they are distressed and perplexed, they will rise up and achieve great accomplishments. When people have seen and experienced hardships, they can understand and rise to new heights. Hardship and calamity help one develop great skills and abilities, while ease and comfort have the opposite effect.
In modern days, people tend to be led by inertia and laziness. People try to seek pleasure and escape from suffering, and thus they live a life in vain. In modern China, because of the improvement of material benefits, many people have not experienced hardship, especially those who grew up under the one-child policy. As a result, these children have developed selfishness and a domineering character.
In many people’s minds, pursuing pleasure and happiness is the main goal of life. They want to reap without sowing and pursue overnight success and extreme luxury. Many people are not willing to work hard and complain a lot about their lot in life. They feel resentful whenever they encounter a little difficulty in life, refuse to excel in the workplace, and feel that they have been taken advantage of by others.
Mencius would argue that hardship is not a bad thing. It enables one to develop a strong will, strengthen one’s mind, and helps one succeed. In fact, most things that are good for people are things that are less comfortable. For example, morning exercises may be exhaustive, but they are good for your health. Strict managers at work may not be pleasing, but they help develop efficiency in employees. Good medicine tastes bitter, but results in a cure, and unpalatable advice helps people see their faults and do things better.
From another perspective, people have bad karma, which leads to hardship. Enduring the hardship can eliminate that karma. If a person has never endured hardship but only enjoys happiness, the outcome will likely be the opposite.
“Eliminating the calamity earlier, curing the illness earlier, and enduring the hardship earlier” is the best approach.