define: to determine or identify the essential qualities or meaning of

refine: to improve or perfect by pruning or polishing

These two verbs, these two words of action, are both options we have to choose from when responding to the adversity that we’ll all inevitably face in our lives. Now, I realize they only differ by a single letter but I believe the one we choose can make a profound difference in both the quality and meaning of our “post-adversity” lives.

Immediately following my brain injury, I chose the first option. I let my brain injury define me. It was like my whole identity was tied up in it. It seemed to be all I could talk about. I couldn’t stop thinking about all the things I’d lost because of it. 

Now, I know that I’m not the only one who’s ever done this. We so easily let our circumstances determine who we are, the way we act, and how we feel. But, thankfully, I learned a new way to “use” my brain injury - I started letting it “refine” me instead.¹

Being refined by my brain injury means instead of focusing on all the things I can't do anymore, I focus on what I still can. It means instead of thinking about what's worse, I think about what’s better. It means instead of considering all I've lost, I consider all I've gained. It means instead of mourning over what once was, I can be joyful over what really is. It means instead of always thinking about my problems, I can try to help others deal with theirs.

I know that adversity is something all of us will face at some point in our lives. I also understand that we often times have absolutely no control over it. But just try to remember that we can always decide how we respond to it. And as you probably could have guessed, I recommend trying not to let it define you - try to let it refine you!


¹ I wish I could say this transition has been an easy one, that it went seamlessly and effortlessly without any issues at all, but that would be completely dishonest. I still go back and forth between the two. Hopefully, I will continue choosing to be refined by my brain injury way more than the other option.