When you think of disabled – what do you think of?
Most of us immediately think of those who are physically disabled because that is usually how the term is applied. I went to the dictionary to find a definition for “disabled” and I was surprised that the first definition was handicapped. Next I looked up the term handicapped and it listed disabled as one of its definitions.
Looking a little deeper I found the definition “disadvantaged” applied to both of these terms. I also discovered that the dictionary did not restrict these terms to being physically challenged, but also included being mentally challenged. In my mind there is a huge difference between disabled and disadvantaged.
We are all challenged and damaged to some degree
Let’s face it, there are numerous areas in which we can be challenged or handicapped. In fact if you think about it, isn’t it true that we are all somewhat handicapped either physically, mentally, emotionally or socially?
Sometimes we apply the term dysfunctional to relationships, as in the expression “they come from a dysfunctional family.” In this case we could say that the social dynamic of the family is severally handicapped.
So let’s get to the point of this article. Handicapped means challenged and we are all challenged in one way or another. Being physically handicapped usually means being challenged in a way that others can see. Being mentally, emotionally or socially handicapped may not be so obvious, but it can be equally disabling.
When John was challenged
I have a friend named John who is an incredible athlete. Running, bicycling, hiking, weight lifting and just about any sport you can think of, John’s into it. Sadly, due to circumstances beyond his control John recently had to have the lower third of one of his legs amputated. Sometimes bad things happen!
What would you do if you were in John’s situation? Would you be among that 52% of Americans who say they would rather be dead than be disabled? Would you consider losing part of one of your legs as a disability or a handicap? Would you consider yourself to be dysfunctional or challenged? Think about that for a minute. Try to put yourself in John’s shoes, so to speak.
Life is full of challenges. It’s up to you whether or not being challenged become equates to being disabled. Nothing has any value except what we assign it. If we decide that our challenges are insurmountable then they become our disabilities. On the other hand, if we view being challenged as an opportunity to learn and grow, then being challenged will actually contribute to our personal development.
How did John decide to deal with this situation?
Less than a year after his amputation John successfully ran the Monterrey Marathon, all 26 miles of it. Last time I saw John we barely had time to speak, why? Because he was so involved in a volleyball game that I did not want to break his concentration.
John was an athlete before his amputation and he’s still an athlete today. He did not allow himself to become a victim of his circumstances.
What can we learn from John’s example?
No matter how challenged we may feel at times, the meaning we assign to those challenges is always our choice. With the right mindset we can overcome any hurdle, rise to meet any set of circumstances and conquer any of life’s challenges. It might not be easy. In fact it might be extremely difficult. But it can be done.
We can all learn the life skills that will empower us to overcome any physical, mental, emotional or social obstacles that we encounter. Remember, it’s not what happens to you that’s important in the long run – it’s how you decide to deal with it. You do not need to be the victim of your circumstances.
When you are challenged, never allow that challenge to become a disability. You can’t get through life without being challenged and damaged to one degree or another. So, at times of adversity you may be disadvantaged, but you don’t need to let it disable you. Take a lesson from John and all the others who have stood up to their challenges and proved victorious!
“Within each of us lies the power of our consent to health and sickness, to riches and poverty, to freedom and to slavery. It is we who control these, and not another.” -Richard Bach
How do you about the difference between challenged and disabled?
Have you ever been inspired by someone like John?
The lines are open!
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