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

refine: to improve or perfect by pruning or polishing

Starting out, I think that I was letting my brain injury define me. It was all I could think or talk about. My whole life seemed to revolve around it. I gave way too much attention to my new struggles and also made sure everyone else was aware of them. Looking back now, I realize it was like my whole identity was tied up in the fact I had a brain injury.

I know that I’m not the only one who’s ever went through some sort of hardship and done this. Maybe it’s just our basic human nature or some sort of default mode. I know it often feels like the easiest thing to do. We can just throw in the towel and let our difficult circumstances determine who we are, influence what we do, and dictate how we feel.

Although this is something I still struggle with from time to time, I’m now much more aware of it when I’m doing it. So, these days, instead of letting my brain injury simply “define” me, I’ve figured out a different way to approach it. I’ve began letting my brain injury “refine” me.

To be refined by my brain injury means that instead of focusing on all the things I can't do anymore, I focus on what I still can! It means that instead of thinking about what's worse, I think about what’s better. It means that instead of considering what I've lost, I consider what I've gained. It means that instead of being sad over what could have been, I can be joyful over what actually is. It means that instead of always thinking about my problems, I’m willing to listen to and help other people deal with theirs.

I doubt that any of us would willingly choose to go through something difficult. We won’t wake up one morning and decide to pursue something that could make us miserable. But, unfortunately, things like this can just happen. That’s why it’s important to remember that, even though we may not have control over such events, we can always decide how we’re going to respond to them.

I know that these two words, “define” and “refine,” may only differ by a single letter, but I believe the one we choose in response to our inevitable struggles or hardships can make a profound difference in the trajectory and quality of our lives. So be sure to choose wisely - choose to be refined!


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