This Too Shall Pass

by Brett & Kate McKay on October 9, 2011 · 85 comments

in A Man's Life

When I turned 16 years old, I got my first car. A red Isuzu Hombre pick-up truck. Yeah, my first car’s model was named Hombre, the Spanish word for man. Though, Hombre’s weren’t a very manly model of pick-up; they were actually kind of dinky. I really didn’t care. I just saw it as the object that finally granted me freedom from relying on mom and dad to take me places I wanted to go. The world was my oyster!

Two weeks after I got the ol’ Hombre, my best friend turned 16, and we went out for a night of fun. On the way back from an epic match of laser tag, I rear-ended a guy.  I got out and made sure the guy I hit was okay. After I saw that he was fine, I assessed the damage. The front end of my little Hombre was no match for the bumper of the F-150 I had collided into. My friends tried to console me.

“It’s not so bad, Brett.”

My response.

“MY CAR IS SCREWED!!!” Repeated over and over while I paced frantically back and forth.

The insurance agent declared my car totaled. And since I only had liability insurance, I was out of a car, period.

Man, I took it hard. I didn’t go to school for two days because I felt so sorry for myself (*facepalm* how freaking lame). I had taken my first steps towards freedom and independence, but in a matter of seconds I was back to relying on my parents to haul me around.

In the middle of one my pity parties, my parents told me, “Brett, this too shall pass.”

Of course they were right. That car accident, which seemed like the end of the world, like an event of earth-shattering significance, is now just a little memory from my teenage years, a funny story to tell.

In the years since that day, I have faced challenges and setbacks far more trying than a totaled car, but that simple advice—this too shall pass–has stuck with me during those low moments, offering a bit of perspective and hope that what seemed permanent, wasn’t, and that things would turn around after all.

You’re More Resilient Than You Think

Some of you may be thinking, “Well, ‘this too shall pass’ might be true about totaling a car when you’re a teenager, or challenges of a slightly more traumatic variety, but not for real, soul-grinding adversity.

What kinds of things fall into that category? Becoming paralyzed in an accident? Losing your spouse after 50 years of marriage? Surely you never really recover from these kinds of blows, right?

Certainly that’s how we feel when we imagine these things happening to us. But the research doesn’t bear out our fears.

In studies done on older couples–those who had been married for decades–6 months after losing their spouse, 50% of the surviving partners experienced little to no symptoms of acute grief or depression, and only 10% of participants suffered from a chronic depression that lasted longer than 18 months. This is not to say the participants did not miss their deceased spouses a good deal, but that happiness did return to their lives relatively quickly, and their grief was not as debilitating as many people imagine it would be.

Another study that followed people after they had become paralyzed in an accident found that the happiness of the victims returned to near their baseline pre-accident levels within months following the injury. And they took more pleasure in mundane tasks and felt more optimistic about their future prospects of happiness than another group which was also studied–those who had won the lottery.

In contemplating these traumas and others, people routinely overestimate how devastated they’d be and how long their funk would last.

Why does the way we imagine our reaction to a tragic event not match the reality of how people actually experience and heal after one?

In the book Stumbling on Happiness, Dr. Daniel Gilbert describes the human inability to notice and think about absences. We think more about what did happen, than what did not happen. Gilbert uses the example of getting pooped on by a pigeon; it might seem from this experience that pigeons aim for people’s heads. But if you took into account all the times you walked in the same spot and didn’t get pooped on by the pigeon, you would quickly realize the folly of that conclusion.

This inability to consider absences applies to the way we imagine the future as well, as Gilbert explains:

“Just as we tend to treat the details of future events that we do imagine as though they were actually going to happen, we have an equally troubling tendency to treat the details of future events that we don’t imagine as though they were not going to happen. In other words, we fail to consider how much imagination fills in, but we also fail to consider how much it leaves out.

To illustrate this point, I often ask people to tell me how they think they would feel two years after the sudden death of an eldest child. As you can probably guess, this makes me quite popular at parties. I know, I know—this is a gruesome exercise and I’m not asking you to do it. But the fact is that if you did it, you would probably give me the answer that almost everyone gives me, which is some variation on Are you out of your damned mind? I’d be devastated—totally devastated. I wouldn’t be able to get out of bed in the morning. I might even kill myself. So who invited you to this party anyway? If at this point I’m not actually wearing the person’s cocktail, I usually probe a bit further and ask how he came to his conclusion. What thoughts or images came to mind, what information did he consider? People typically tell me that they imagined hearing the news, or they imagined opening the door to an empty bedroom. But in my long history of asking this question and thereby excluding myself from every social circle to which I formerly belonged, I have yet to hear a single person tell me that in addition to these heartbreaking, morbid images, they also imagined the other things that would inevitably happen in the two years following the death of their child. Indeed, not one person has ever mentioned attending another child’s school play, or making love with his spouse, or eating a taffy apple on a warm summer evening, or reading a book, or writing a book, or riding a bicycle, or any of the many activities that we—and that they—would expect to happen in those two years. Now, I am in no way, shape, or form suggesting that a bite of gooey candy compensates for the loss of a child. That isn’t the point. What I am suggesting is that the two-year period following a tragic event has to contain something—that is, it must be filled with episodes and occurrences of some kind—and these episodes and occurrences must have some emotional consequences. Regardless of whether those consequences are large or small, negative or positive, one cannot answer my question accurately without considering them. And yet, not one person I know has ever imagined anything other than the single, awful event suggested by my question. When they imagine the future, there is a whole lot missing, and the things that are missing matter.”

This really gets to the crux of why, when we’re in the midst of a funk, we feel like it will last forever, and yet it inevitably passes. When we imagine the future, we think we will always feel the way we do at that moment, but we do not imagine all the life events that will keep us from sitting in our room and brooding 24/7. The vast majority of minds cannot ruminate on the same thing indefinitely. Life goes on and takes us along with it.

This is not to say that the ache of some losses and setbacks ever completely goes away. The memories of painful events in your life can still hit you out of the blue like a ton of bricks  and take your breath away years after they happen. People say that time heals all wounds, which is true, but while the open, gaping wounds close up, the scar remains.

And yet,  battered and bruised we keep on trucking. Humans have an almost infinite capacity for adaption and a greater ability to bounce backs from trials than most of know. As the author on the aforementioned study on widows wrote, “Resilience to the unsettling effects of interpersonal loss is not rare but relatively common.”

Not only should understanding this fact give you a glimmer of hope when you’re in a season of despair, it should also buoy up your confidence about taking risks in the future. Too often we think, “I cannot try that because if I failed/lost that person/made a mistake I couldn’t go on living. In fact, you could, and you would.

Getting Through the Trial

Sure, this information does offer a bit of hope to those down in one of life’s low points, but information can’t really pull you out of it. It is quite difficult to pull yourself out of a funk by thinking it away.

Your mind may say that the dark time will pass, but it still feels like it will last forever. And that’s where a lot of the pain comes from during challenging times: you look ahead down the road and wonder how you will ever make it. You gaze all the way to the horizon and the path ahead looks so long, so daunting, you feel like collapsing under the weight of that huge burden.

How do you cope during those times?

Take a page from Alcoholics Anonymous. Staying sober is no easy task–if alcoholics thought about not ever having another drink for the next 50 years, they’d easily get overwhelmed and feel like it wasn’t even worth trying. So they take it “one day at a time.” Staying sober for decades seems impossible; staying sober for 24 hours seems very doable.

This is how Don Gately, a character in David Foster Wallace’s book, Infinite Jest, deals with the grueling drain of detox. Only he makes the period in which he must live even smaller than a day—he narrows it to “the space between two heartbearts.”

“Any one second: he remembered: the thought of feeling like he’d be feeling this second for 60 more of these seconds—he couldn’t deal. He could not f—-ing deal. He had to build a wall around each second just to take it. The whole first two weeks of it are telescoped in his memory down into like one second—less: the space between two heartbeats. A breath and a second, the pause and gather between each cramp. An endless Now stretching its gull-wings out on either side of his heartbeat. And he’d never before or since felt so excruciatingly alive. Living in the Present between pulses.”

Later in the book, Gately gets shot in the shoulder and, not wanting to relapse, refuses to take narcotic painkillers. He chooses to deal with the pain the same way he did during his detox–by living fully in the tiny spaces of time:

“He could do dextral pain the same way: Abiding. No one single instant of it was unendurable. Here was a second right here: he endured it. What was undealable-with was the thought of all the instants lined up and stretching ahead, glittering…It’s too much to think about. To Abide there…He could just hunker down in the space between each heartbeat and make each heartbeat a wall and live there. Not let his head look over.”

It’s hard to have the will to live a micro-second, but whatever the shortest amount of time is that you can build a wall around, just live in that space. Don’t look over the wall and think about the future. Just make it through that day. And the next morning get up and do it again. Live in that space for awhile, and the seasons will change around you. If you just keep putting one foot in front of the other, winter will eventually give way to spring.

Peaks and Valleys

I just wanted to leave you with a visual reminder of the “this too shall pass” principle that a friend once showed me. I often reflect on it when I’m going through a hard time. Make a fist and look at your knuckles. You see peaks and valleys. Such is the nature of life: peaks and valleys, peaks and valleys. You may be in a valley now, but you will be on top of a peak once again. Just keep putting up your dukes each day and fighting the good fight.

{ 85 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Daren Redekopp October 9, 2011 at 6:45 pm

Good words, Brett. I have often been comforted by the nature of time: that no matter what it is that I am dreading, it will flow past at a steady rate of sixty seconds per minute.

2 andyinsdca October 9, 2011 at 7:00 pm

I want to leave a bunch of words here, but I won’t. I’ll just simply say, yes it will. I just need to keep it in mind.

3 Adam Brigman October 9, 2011 at 7:03 pm

This is an inspiring message and is pure truth. The ability to endure and to endure well is the mark of true manliness. If I could only associate with one of three men, the smartest man, the richest man, or an average man who had endured great trials, I would choose the average man without hesitation, because I know I could trust him and rely on him to never give up. Great article, Brett and Kate.

4 Mike October 9, 2011 at 7:06 pm

Very good advice, and in perfect time too! I’ve been feeling kind of down lately(got rejected by a girl), but I just keep reminding myself that it will pass. George Harrison even said “All things must pass”. I like the peaks and valleys example. Another way I like to look at life is to compare it to a river. Some days the water is calm, some days are turbulent like rapids, and some days you just plunge to the bottom like a waterfall, but eventually the water will be calm again.

5 Brandon October 9, 2011 at 7:35 pm

Thanks for posting this when you did. I’ve been trapped in post-college job-hunting hell for a long while, and I needed to hear this again. I remember I always used to be a very high-strung teenager, until one day, someone dropped a logic bomb on my head:
“In five years, will this matter?”
Ever since then, that’s been my go-to mantra when I feel myself start to panic, and usually, when I realize that most things won’t matter in five MONTHS, let alone years, my panic/anger/stress/whatever just pops like a balloon and goes away.

6 Gerry October 9, 2011 at 7:43 pm

Very, very great article! i like how the AA was implemented on the article itself “Staying sober for decades seems impossible; staying sober for 24 hours seems very doable.” This is very true, coming from a sober person for almost 2 years now. I went through a hard time and walked to the valley of death. Our family pastor said the same thing to me..This too shall pass, you hang in there and God has plans for you. I kept Ps. 23 along with my journey to the valley.
Thanks Brett and Kate for this great article!

7 Carla October 9, 2011 at 7:57 pm

This is probably my favourite saying of all time. I also like to remind myself of it when things are going swimmingly and I am happy and content. Knowing “this too shall pass” reminds me to appreciate the good stuff while it lasts too. Excellent article!

8 Undina October 9, 2011 at 8:02 pm

As any generalization it is just that – a generalization. It’s alright to tell it to yourself if it helps but one should be very careful when telling it to others.

Life is a process not a result so it is important how one feels in any point of it. Yeah, most setbacks will pass. Most – relatively fast. For most people – with no [serious] consequences. But there will always be some for whom it won’t be so. Many people are mentally resilient and will survive deaths of loved ones. All, but those who won’t. Many people will adjust to crippled life. But some – won’t.

Unless one beliefs in (and aims at) an afterlife, I think it’s important to understand that not everything “shall pass”. But having no control over the sircumstances we might try to make the best of them – if we choose to keep living.

9 Eric October 9, 2011 at 8:47 pm

Great Advice- and especially needed at this time- just out of law school awaiting bar results and my scheduled wedding would be coming up next week if my ex-fiance didn’t cancel it.

I’ve heard a quote about the long road- “God opens another door when one closes- the hallway is hell but another door will one day be open”

10 David October 9, 2011 at 10:26 pm

Nice writeup.

For those that have encountered trauma, this too shall pass may not be enough. For example, my father tried to kill my mom and I using guns and a large knife when I was in eighth grade. No one talked about it, not even with a counselor. I have relived that day every day for over 32 years. EMDR is one treatment that helped remove the daily rememberance. I tried looking at “the other side of the coin”, oh, I lived through the event, it wasn’t that bad, I’m not looking at what I’m missing…and people said, just stop thinking about it…blue skies, etc.

I offer that one should make sure the advice fits the situation. The words about a child dying is most likely borderline traumatic.


Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder resulting from a psychologically traumatic or life-threatening event. Symptoms may include flashbacks or nightmares, avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma, difficulty falling or staying asleep, anger, and hyper-vigilance.

Although most people associate PTSD with soldiers or police officers involved in life-threatening situations, any overwhelming life experience can trigger the disorder. And while it’s impossible to predict who will develop PTSD, there are certain risk factors that increase your vulnerability.

One such risk factor has to do with the nature of the triggering event itself—PTSD is more likely to occur when there is a severe threat to your life or personal safety—the more extreme and prolonged the event, the greater the risk of developing PTSD. Intentional, human-inflicted harm such as rape or assault also tends to be more traumatic than more impersonal forms of accidents and disasters. The extent to which the traumatic event was unexpected and uncontrollable also plays a role.

11 Bing October 9, 2011 at 10:52 pm

interesting, interesting write-up.

while this is so inspirational, i was intrigued by the comment made by David. i think about the truth on what he said, ‘The extent to which the traumatic event was unexpected and uncontrollable also plays a role (in PTSD).’ i have to agree that this is very true.

12 John October 9, 2011 at 10:52 pm

@ Brandon and @ Mike….

Time was, many years ago, I was at different times repeatedly rejected by a girl or in college-graduate job hunt limbo. Both sucked.

But the years since then haven’t been spent dwelling on her saying “Let’s be friends” or getting yet another “Thank you for your resume” letter. They were spent having dinner a few thousand times, reading a couple hundred books, wearing out 5 or 6 pairs of shoes, having a few dozen colds, enjoying a handful of Christmas’es with family, listening to scores of songs on the radio, watching close to a hundred football games….. just living ordinary life.

Now I have my six-figure “dream job” that I enjoy, am married to a wife that adores me as much as I do her, and we have two delightfully beautiful children.

Within ten years (or less) you’ll both be in my situation. Chin up fellas. This too shall pass.

13 Glen October 9, 2011 at 10:55 pm

Great article B&K!

While this kind of post will inevitably garner more comments from folks who are exceptions to the rule, it’s important that people don’t give too much weight to the exceptions either. Amongst the general population (it’s higher for war vets), 10% will experience PTSD, and it will be gone for 97% of those folks by the year after the traumatic event. And women get it twice as much as men, so the percentage of men who have PTSD that lasts longer than a year is TINY. Chances are you’re going to be part of the 99%–don’t dwell on exceptions.

14 Julio G October 9, 2011 at 11:45 pm

This article brought a tear to my eye. Thank you for it, it was very well written.

15 Marina October 10, 2011 at 12:29 am

This article reminds me of my favourite quote: If you are going through hell, keep going. Winston Churchill said that and I believe he understood it intimately. Thanks for another wonderful article.

16 Justin Wollmann October 10, 2011 at 12:33 am

Thank you for the very well-written article. My life, at twenty years old, is nothing but a daily grind. Lately I have asked myself “Why does it have to be like this?”, but just two days before this article, I realized it doesn’t matter.. It’ll all pass.

17 Laurence October 10, 2011 at 1:21 am

Read Theodore Tilton’s ‘Even this shall pass away’. This poem was passed down to me by my grandfather and it examines exactly what you’re talking about, plus it gives some other sage advice to boot.

18 AT October 10, 2011 at 1:32 am

Thanks for this article. It could not have come at a better time.

19 Chris Miller October 10, 2011 at 2:22 am

The city I live in has been an ongoing disaster zone for the last thirteen months – we’ve been wracked with earthquakes, about eight thousand of them now, and the indefinite nature of it has been both really helpful and really harmful, it seems. I work for an international non-profit and spend a lot of time talking to people over the phone about how they’re doing, and the ones who are emotionally the worst off talk a lot about how it never stops and there’s no end to it. They’ll start to seem like they’re tapering off, then they’ll start up again, some worse than others (the one that killed the most people actually happened nearly six months after the first one, it’s not one big event with progressively smaller aftershocks). But at the same time, the people who have adjusted to it say that any given day isn’t that bad. A lot of the time we get comments from people elsewhere asking “How do you do it?” Mostly the answer is just that, after a while, you have to. The world doesn’t stop. You still have to do all the normal everyday life things in between diving under furniture and losing power and shoveling up what we call “shilt” (the result of liquefaction, a mixture of dirt and mud and human waste) and dealing with insurance companies. And after a while you also start to notice that you do other things as well. You start noticing the spring flowers and you have a bit of a laugh coming up with “You know you live in Christchurch when…” jokes and you make friends with the people you’ve met complaining on Twitter and eventually it’s not “Oh god, my neighbourhood is in ruins, I haven’t flushed my toilet in months, I have family friends who’ve died, I can’t afford as much food anymore because my supermarket’s been demolished and the closest one is more expensive”, it’s “oh, that shake wasn’t so bad – five pretend dollars it was the Rolleston fault, I’m picking 4.8.”

I mean, technically, this too hasn’t even passed yet. But it still passes, while it’s passing, because we’re just not made to live in one moment forever.

20 Jack Henry October 10, 2011 at 3:00 am

This article just rings a little shallow to me. As a victim of repeated, brutal, forced, sodomy from age 10 to 11 I am just not getting a lot out of “this too shall pass”. See when you are destroyed as a little boy….well…a self help article wedged between “how to shave” and “how to fix anything with a wrench” rings a little hollow. This does not pass. OK! it never passes. I see you tried: “This is not to say that the ache of some losses and setbacks ever completely goes away. The memories of painful events in your life can still hit you out of the blue like a ton of bricks and take your breath away years after they happen. People say that time heals all wounds, which is true, but while the open, gaping wounds close up, the scar remains..”. Scar, memory!? Man, this never even begins to go away. sir,…you are a writer…please think of your audience. Without a qualifer, a direct qualifer..your article is insulting and shallow to many readers. I big turn off to many.
Editors: I bet this article really damages your site by way of attrition. Editirs…writer: Have you anything to say? I urge you to say it now.

Jack Henry
Austin Texas

21 Suzi October 10, 2011 at 3:07 am

Thanks for a great story. I’m right in the middle of the “This”, glad to know that it “shall pass”. :)

22 David C October 10, 2011 at 5:26 am

this might be a little off base but I think about this exchange and the definition of ‘upset’ from the second Punisher movie..
Frank Castle: It’s been five months since my family was killed. I don’t see ONE man in jail.
Police Chief Morris: Obviously you’re upset…
Frank Castle: Upset? Is that the word? I used to get upset. When I got a flat tire, when a plane was delayed. I used to get *upset* when the Yankees won the series. So if that’s what upset means, what am I feeling now? If you know the word, tell me because I don’t.

23 Chris October 10, 2011 at 5:39 am

Great article Brett and Kate. I’ve gone through a very difficult time in my life over the last year, but it is slowly getting better. Taking one day at a time, keeping busy, focusing on my children; all of these things really do help me realize that “this too shall pass”. Keep up the great work!

24 Jack Henry October 10, 2011 at 5:46 am

David C. Very appropriate.

Pollyanna and Candide together, could not have a written a more sugarcoated fairy tale than, “this too shall pass. “. I wish the Jews in the nazi concentration camps had access to this article. They could have been so comforted.

Jack Henry
Austin Texas

25 Soberus October 10, 2011 at 6:03 am

“This Too Shall Pass,” is said over and over in the recovery arena. Certainly, I was delighted to see a quote from the pages of AA.
One might be interested to know the book of AA is taken from a Biblical context — the book of James, the book of Proverbs and others. However, I do find hints at other parts of the Bible.
Isaiah 43… though you walk through the fire, you will not be burned…. speaks in the same manner.
Thanks for the message. One of my favorite saying.

26 Soberus October 10, 2011 at 6:14 am

Jack Henry

Wow sir…. resentments are our number one offender. Me drinking poison and expecting another to die.
From a similar childhood background, and drinking that poison for years…. what seemed like by the gallon…. I did begin working on myself.
Have I forgotten the past? NO
Do I wish to see that person today? NO
Does it continue to haunt me? Every now and then. Today, the haunting is so minute, it is more like a memory.
I also had to take a look in the mirror in order to see the destruction of my poison guzzling.
Best wishes to you sir.

27 Dave October 10, 2011 at 6:20 am

Yo Jack. Dude, I can never ever begin to feel a fraction of the pain you must have experienced, be experiencing.

Maybe I’m not qualified to say this, but I’ll point out what I observe. It seems that you’re dwelling in the past. You’re feeding your self concept (of someone who’s destroyed) by dwelling on past events, you’re daily and continually feeding on the pain. Maybe that’s why it hasn’t passed.

Take care man. You’ve got a bright awesome future ahead of you. Don’t wreck it for yourself by dwelling on events that you had no control over.

28 Chris Miller October 10, 2011 at 6:33 am

Dave I’m pretty sure he’s aware that he’s dwelling in the past. I’m also pretty sure patronising comments from random people on the internet who don’t have a clue what that kind of trauma is like aren’t going to change his life.

For those who feel the article is condescending – in your position, yes, it is. I try to look at things like this as addressed to those people lucky enough not to have suffered the terrible things that some people have been through. For them, it can be useful. For people who are experiencing legitimate PTSD it’s much less so, because that’s a horrible sickness that changes everything about how you perceive life and a blog post is never going to change that. (Like I said in my earlier comment, I talk to a lot of people here who aren’t coping, and I’d never try to belittle their experiences by giving a trite line – instead I just listen to them and sympathise and reassure them that it’s okay to feel like that. Sometimes I get to give good advise, which is great, but I find that just listening is more than a lot of people do for them to start with. It says a lot about the failures of the system here that people are so grateful just for someone to listen.)

29 Jack Henry October 10, 2011 at 6:49 am

thank you Dave and Soberus,
Soberus: Resentments: I dont have those. The dude like to slide in on the blood. I am way beyond resentments.

Dwelling in the past?? It is not that. I dont have a past. I was so talented and smart. At age 11 I was the school dummy. Parents never helped me. They did not know what happenned and I was to scared to tell. People need immediate therapy if there is hope for recovery. I did not get that.

Understandthis sentence, My life was destroyed. Got it? There is npo problem here with dwelling in the past, or resentments. This trauma actually changes the b rtain. The limbic system and the hypothalmus. Look nit up.

On the bright side, I am starting therapy. I am readdy to talk. I never told a soul till march of this year.
Ericson in hi model od development says that the last stage of developement is “Ego I tegrety vs despair. This is where I am. I am gunning for integrity over despair.

There is nothing so damaging in life short of death as prepubesent sexual abuse by a trusted relative.

Please–that is why I asked the two writers for a qualifer before there do damage to other surviviors.
Thanks for you kindness, but I accept no admonishments


30 Travis October 10, 2011 at 7:01 am

Again, great post Brett, Keep up the good work!

31 Jack Henry October 10, 2011 at 7:06 am

thank you all, Chis Milet, Dave et al. I need to stop getting rilled up. I appreciate well meaning people. I am sorry for getting too emotional here. The article just touched a nerve. But to the credit of Brett and Kate it is a good article. I just doesnt apply after a point. I was too scarcastic. I hope this article helps people with usual trauma cause it is really an action article and combats the cognitive distortion of predicting a doomed future for everyday trauma. It even addresses the logical fallicy of “well its always been this way”. Good stuff.
I got a little mean calling it a fairy. I am sorry. It was well meaning. I just wanted a qualifer and then I got too sad and angry.
I am an AOM fan. I got the long handled Merkur, doing the wet shave, excersing, dressing better, got some nice interchangable clothres and by God I know how to give a toast, order a drink, treat a lady. What a site. I even brought back the Old spice.
Feeling very manly :).
I have fun here. I want to be friends with folks here.
I know a lot about Boxing, did that for a lot of years when I was young, I can go on about the cllassics and poetry, how to enjoy a musical, …I want to share this stuff.
I want to forget about this abuse stuff and get with my therpist and learn more from AOM. I have a lot of important sport coat questions that really need answering….o yeah pocketwatches…..we really need to talk about those.

yall’s friend ,

32 David Basnett October 10, 2011 at 7:15 am

People interested in this approach should consider studying the Stoic philosophers, or at least the modern commentaries on them. They were teaching this kind of thing thousand’s of years ago.
I found “A Guide to the Good Life : The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy” by William B. Irvine a particularly good guide to implementing stoic philosophy in modern life.

33 Darren October 10, 2011 at 7:30 am

Wow. Lots of good stuff here. Jack, therapy helps. A lot. You’ll get there.

And if you haven’t ready David Foster Wallace, he’s one of the best writers of the 20th century. Sadly he committed suicide in his 40s — severe depression finally got him. For him, this too didn’t pass so nicely, but he left us a gift of some beautiful writing.

Everyone has pain to push through. What may seem trivial to some is crippling to others. Let’s support each other whatever the degree.

Peace. DB

34 Random63 October 10, 2011 at 7:31 am

Probably the most wisest 4 words I’ve first heard years ago. It also applies to good times and should make you treasure each and every moment.

35 Keith Brawner October 10, 2011 at 7:54 am

Thank you.

36 Soberus October 10, 2011 at 8:17 am

First, resentment is to re-sentiment… or to re-feel. Without those, I think we’d either be dead or of the anti-social personality disorder.

Now…. POCKET WATCHES. Now that is good stuff!!!! Been carrying one for years. Got interested in Elgins years ago. Often, I am able to find a deal on Ebay…. they capture me. Hold a good one to your ear and it is like going to the mountains and sitting peacefully in isolation.
Elgin was fascinating to research as they differed in their marketing techniques. They survived when others did not.
It is difficult to find a decent repairman or horologist.
Best Wishes,

37 Craig Johnson October 10, 2011 at 8:51 am

Great post! I needed that.

38 Jack Henry October 10, 2011 at 9:17 am

Soberus–Hahhh you have my heart there my friend. Own an Elgin, not working at present….repair in progress. Carrying a aero watch. Not as haute coutere as the Elgins but a classic look and well made. I will get a picture posted soon.My pal comented on my use of the PW the other day as “quaint”. I looked it up for the fullest meaning. Here it is:
obsolete: expert, skilled
a: marked by skillful design b: marked by beauty or elegance
a: unusual or different in character or appearance : odd b: pleasingly or strikingly old-fashioned or unfamiliar

I got back to my friend and said ‘Quaint…yes, indeed it is”. My friend is a Brit. Not an unlikey comment from him yet wel said.

“First, resentment is to re-sentiment… or to re-feel.” Very good break down on that, and true. Who would be be if not for this ability. Thank you

39 Jack Henry October 10, 2011 at 9:19 am

Thanks DB, will check that out.

40 Nick Savides October 10, 2011 at 9:25 am

Hello Brett & Kate,
I just wanted to say thanks for this blog. It has become my go-to source of inspiration when I get overwhelmed by the superficial and unfair things in my world. If I lose my way, I’ll pay your blog a visit, and then I’m reminded once again of the kind of man I want to be. That helps orient me in a way that few things can.

Yes, uncertainties and cruelties linger, but they too shall pass. Onward then!


41 Jaron Deerwester October 10, 2011 at 9:51 am

Brett, thank you for the article. Well-written as always, and full of hope.

One nit-pick: As a former alcoholic and drunk of 10 years (I’m 26 now; I refused the AA/rehab route in favor of going it on my own with the help of loving, supportive family and friends, and am now able to sit for a single beer or glass of decent scotch), 24 hours without booze was NOT easy or imaginable. In the month after I decided to sober up, using self-imposed tea totaling, I’d wake up with tears in my eyes from the overwhelming frustration. Every waking moment, I thought about nothing but wanting – NEEDING – a drink. After the DT shakes stopped, the mental states didn’t get better for a long time. It’s been a year and a half now, and I’ve finally recovered to the point where I can begin letting go of my old self, the drunk, even though the old habits have been broken long since. (I don’t WANT to have more than one drink in a sitting anymore, and don’t drink every day – happily sober and able to have a single glass.)

It DOES get better, yes, but it was still one of the hardest experiences to get through.

Change and growth happen. “This too shall pass.” But, sometimes, for some things, it takes a whole lot of concentrated effort and a deliberate pursuit of personal growth to make it pass.

Note to any alcoholics reading this: NEVER detox on your own if you have the shakes (delirium tremens). Stopping drinking suddenly can kill you. There’s a good reason for medically supervised detox programs – medication and around-the-cock supervision make it a safe, if unpleasant, task to sober up. I was stupid about it. Don’t take the risk.

42 Peter October 10, 2011 at 10:38 am

Thank you very much Brett.

I’m half way through my first semester at college and I’m feeling quite overwhelmed. It wasn’t always that way, at the end of my senior year at High School I was very excited for college and had planned it all out. My mindset quickly changed as it felt I was loosing my grip on my courses and my organization. I saw that a huge foreboding school load was about to crush me and that scared me most. My grades have slipped and I dread going to class each day. When you started talking about taking it day by day is really what struck me. I believe I have been looking at college all wrong and that I need to take it slower. I hope to salvage this semester and excel in the next one. Thanks again.

43 Evan G October 10, 2011 at 10:52 am


“This too shall pass” is meant to keep you grounded and rational. Hard times will come and go, and so will good times. For example, right now I’m making a load of cash going to school on the g.i. Bill + working + other income. I often have to remind myself not to live like I make as much money as i do otherwise 3 years down the road when my income falls short, I will be in a frantic state trying to make ends meet, depressed because I can’t go recklessly spending money like I’m a millionaire. Sorry for this horribly written comment time was of the essence!! :-) cheers!

44 Jonathan S. October 10, 2011 at 11:14 am

I did a quick search of the internet for the story this reminded me of that a friend told me from the Talmud. I have always cherished it and remind myself of it when things are going horribly and when things are going above exceptional.

Borrowed from

This story, recorded in the Talmud, speaks, of a ring, a king, and curses and blessings.

King Solomon was wise and powerful with riches beyond compare, and yet, he was not content. One day he told his wise men, “I am too often depressed by life. If things go my way, I do not trust that they will last. If they do not, I fear my woes will never end. I have dreamed that there is a ring that contains the knowledge that will bring me peace of mind. Please go and find this ring. I wish to have it by Succoth, six months from now.”

The king’s advisors each went their own way, asking in each place for this marvelous, powerful ring that would bring their king peace of mind. They went to the finest jewelers and goldsmiths in Jerusalem and described the magic qualities of the ring, but no one had heard of it. They traveled to Damascus, Babylon, and Tyre and spoke to traders and merchants who had traveled the seas, but no one had heard of such a ring. They traveled to Egypt and many other places – but nowhere did they find it and no one knew of such a ring.

Many times the king asked them if they found the ring, and they replied, “Not yet your highness.” Solomon’s hope was fading.

Six months passed. On the eve of Succoth, the advisors still had not found the ring. They had given up. All save one, the youngest. Unable to sleep, he walked through the city streets all night. In the morning he found himself on a street with the poorest houses. He saw an old man setting out his simple jewelry and trinkets for sale. In one last attempt he described the ring to this man.

The old man was quiet for a while, and then he smiled. He went inside his simple dwelling and returned with a plain gold ring. With a sharp tool he engraved something on it and laid it in the advisors’ hand. As the wise man read what was written on the ring, his heart filled with joy. “This is the ring,” he exclaimed. He gave the old man all the money he had and hurried back to the palace.

That evening at the Succoth feast, King Solomon silenced the crowd. He asked, “Advisors, have you found me the ring of my dreams?” All were silent except the youngest advisor. He stepped forward as he spoke, “We have your highness.” The king looked at the ring and read the Hebrew words engraved there, “Gam Zeh Ya’avor” – “This too shall pass.” He handed him the simple gold ring. As he read the inscription, the king’s sorrows turned to joy and his joys to sorrow, and then both gave way to peace. And the king was reminded in that moment that all his riches and glory were impermanent, and all his sorrows would pass away as do the seasons and years, all his blessings and all his curses would pass away.

From that time on, King Solomon wore the ring and was reminded – in blessings and in curses, in good times and in bad, that “This too, shall pass.” (“This Too Shall Pass is retold from Talmud by Elisa Davy Pearmain in Doorways to the Soul, Pilgrim Press, Cleveland, Ohio, 1998, pp.20-21).

45 Kris B October 10, 2011 at 11:26 am

I’ll take this as a word of encouragement from an Sooners fan to a Longhorn fan after a very, very rough weekend. :)

46 M. P. S. Pod October 10, 2011 at 11:29 am

It’s been a rough couple of months, and I really needed this article. Thanks, guys!

47 Dave M October 10, 2011 at 11:30 am

My father offered this same piece of advice to me years ago, and it has served me well thru some horrific chapters of life. However when I offer it to young men now, I have ammended it a bit. “This too shall pass–though it may take a long damn time, it will pass.” Jack Henry, my heart goes out to you and any others dealing with those deep soul-searing scars. But I am also honored to have met you in this forum. Your posts here have shown you as a man of integrity who is working to “make it pass” and live life to the fullest in spite of the scars.

In addition, you have given me a re-newed interest in my great-grandfathers railroad pocket watch. Thank you.

Also, thank you Brett for a very thoughtful and thought provoking piece.

Dave M

48 Cody D October 10, 2011 at 11:31 am

“I can sum up all I’ve learned in life into three words….It goes on.” Robert Frost

49 John Hosie October 10, 2011 at 12:25 pm

You know, I was sure by the title that, this being a manly article, it must have to do with the results of attending a monster Chili cookoff, but the message was… lets say… much more satisfying – and without the aroma.

So much for ambiance.

The senior pastor at a church I used to attend talked about how events affect us. He pointed out that we can’t just walk through life and accept whatever happens to us like sheep, but we also can’t just react. This is how animals do things. We can’t wallow in depression because of the tragedies that happen to us. We can’t go through life beating our chests and taking credit for all the good things that happen, and try to force change after events unfold that are less than favorable. We know that things will happen – both good and bad – and we need to prayerfully consider in advance how we will act when things happen to us so that what we do is not just a knee-jerk reaction, but a thoughtfully considered response in humility and in respect for others.

It has taken me a while, but over time I’ve developed a sort of philosophy of living that I wish I had found 50 years earlier. It still evolves a little, but the core is the same.

I woke up this morning and I got out of bed, so know God took care of me last night, and I was at least twice blessed before the day even got started. This day is good. No matter what events unfold, no matter whether they are good or bad, I know that my response matters more than the events themselves. I can get depressed when things don’t go my way, and I can get angry when something bad happens. I can ride an emotional high over the good things that may happen, but ultimately I end up coming back down. If I take things with thoughtful understanding, learning from disappointments, and acknowledge with thankfulness for the gifts from God, my life is infinitely more satisfying and meaningful.

In my youth I graduated from college with a degree in Philosophy and was certain that I knew it all and could pass it on to others, but I had so much to learn. I had thought that I would go sit on top of a mountain and wait for people to come and ask me the meaning of life, but when hunger overtook me, I returned to the world rather than retreating more from it. You don’t know life’s meaning without living a meaningful life.

So today, in my vintage flatulence, I’ve learned that there is so much more to time than its passage, and that a passing wind can destroy an ancient oak standing against it, while saplings may bend to the ground today but still may grow into a great oak in years to come. It is my reaction to events that matters most in how my day unfolds.


50 Josh Stewart October 10, 2011 at 1:19 pm

I was taught that there is only one true statement in this world and that is, “This Too Shall Pass”

They really are words to live by.

51 Nicholas October 10, 2011 at 2:28 pm

I’ve embraced this method for most of my life, and I couldn’t see thinking any other way. To take matters further, though, the same goes for the peaks as the valleys – all things must pass; even the good things. Recognize the good things and enjoy them while you have them, because they too will pass.

52 David October 10, 2011 at 2:58 pm

Thanks. I’m unemployed, so this post means a lot to me right now.

53 Fritz October 10, 2011 at 3:31 pm

Great post about falling down or being knocked down & getting back up. This is a great video on youtube along the same lines.

54 Joshua Smith October 10, 2011 at 4:01 pm

Good timing for this article. I am going through a trial with my current job and seeking a new one. It is reassuring to read this knowing that things will work out some how and not feel as bad as it does now. Thanks!

55 Robert Weedall October 10, 2011 at 5:22 pm

The unfortunate problem is when you start applying this to good things as well.

56 Nathan October 10, 2011 at 6:14 pm

A great article … I must admit I struggled to read on after the “lazertag” and “facepalm” comments but I am glad I did.

57 Andre October 10, 2011 at 8:00 pm

Thank you for this wonderful post. My wife left me five months ago. Knowing that in 25 years, she will still be gone, is overwhelming. One moment, one day at a time is the only way I have been able to hang on.

58 Erick R October 10, 2011 at 8:07 pm

This site always seems to have what I need at different times in my life. I just had a terrible break up with my girlfriend of a year and a half. I was going to read the “How to Weather a Break-Up Like a Man” article, and I now seemed to have found a better one. The article speaks very much to me. It feels like the worst thing in the world right now, but in a few years it will just be a distant memory of my youth. I thought about how I would never get over her, but everyday it gets a little easier overall.

Anyway, great article Brett. It really has helped me put things in perspective.

59 Altus October 10, 2011 at 8:10 pm

This quote has literally saved my life on many occassions!!! Along with ” Never Ever Give Up” ……….Great article ……….Thank You!!!

60 Grace October 10, 2011 at 8:15 pm

Fight the good fight. I like that sign off.

The only war that matters is the war on the imagination. My imagination is my greatest asset. I find in challenging times, my imagination can conjure up quite a few ways to deal with and improve the situation.

I was engaged to the then love of my life when after 10 years together things changed completely. Yep it sucked. Here is something I read at the time. It was empowering and has gathered more and more momentum as time has gone by:

Your old self is the fuel you will use to burn your old self to the ground. This bonfire will liberate your new self, which has been trapped in a gnarly snarl deep inside your old self. It’s only at first that you’ll feel freaked out by the flames. Very quickly a sense of relief and release will predominate. Then, as the new you makes its way to freedom, escaping its cramped quarters and flexing its vital force, you will be blessed with a foreshadowing of your future. The intoxication that follows will bring you clarity and peace of mind.

61 Kanhaiya October 10, 2011 at 8:32 pm

Wow…. This is probably the best article I’ve read in a very long time. Beautifully written, with such a strong messege, and it came at just the right time in my life as I have been sincerely contemplating on if the pain was worth it in the end when it comes to many things in my life. Thank you for this, I will hold this advice for the rest of my life and try and pass it on to others.

62 un-man October 10, 2011 at 11:46 pm

Brett, talk about timing on your article. After 15 years of marriage, I blew my top on Saturday during an argument with my wife, ended up going to jail on a domestic violence charge. In the time it took me to post bail, she and our children took off and left the state. I can’t call or contact her or our kids for any reason whatsoever or I’ll end up back in jail until after the trial – if the judge will revoke the restraining order.

I am kicking myself so hard for this very decidedly un-manly behavior. Life is looking bleaker than it’s ever looked. I just keep praying and hoping that she will have a change of heart towards me, and that I’ll learn how to control my temper and we’ll be able to work through this. Right now, I’m measuring life one heartbeat at a time.

I would personally appreciate an article on learning how to master your temper. Guys, always ALWAYS watch your temper around your loved ones – literally a one second action very well may cost me my marriage and my children.

63 Fox October 11, 2011 at 12:41 am

Great post as always, I will forever make a fist and look at the peaks and valleys whenever I’m feeling low from now on. Thanks

64 Ted Slampyak October 11, 2011 at 1:17 am

One of your best posts ever, Brett. Really, some great writing, and a great perspective on crises and how to handle them. My hat’s off to you!

65 Ara Bedrossian October 11, 2011 at 11:57 am

Daniels is an informative sociologist. I especially enjoy his TED talks, if you havent checked them out already, go to and look him up.
I think if human beings can talk more about how they make decisions and arent afraid to share their opinions with one another in an equal give and take, we can realize the irrationality of the reactions, which Gilbert so eloquently points out. Cheers,

66 Billiam October 11, 2011 at 11:58 am

Really like the post. I found it a little ironic to quote David Foster Wallace, given that he committed suicide. Maybe the time between heartbeats became too long for him.

67 John Hosie October 11, 2011 at 6:13 pm

Anger is a very difficult thing to deal with. I used to think that I could have what I called “righteous anger”, but I’ve learned there is no thing. Sure, you can rationalize things that way, but as soon as anger takes control, reason departs. So even of there was a “reason” for the anger, it is gone once anger strikes.

A church I used to attend had a pastor who would counsel about anger. There are actually several books on the subject, if you’re really interested in reading self-help type material. From a biblical perspective, the verse I remember (though I can’t tell you where it is) I can paraphrase as, “Let not the sun go down on your anger.” This, of course, is because a series of things go wrong in your life when you do. To start with, your mind “stews” on it. It has a chance to make its way deep into your thoughts. You have trouble sleeping. You also end up holding things against others as a result, and this usually is not a good thing because the ill will you harbor hurts you while the other person doesn’t even realize it, or if they do, they probably don’t care.

I’ve found that planning actions in advance is best. When I start feeling anger building, I have a series of steps I go through to keep it away. The primary one is to disengage. Get away from the situation. This doesn’t mean to desert your spouse and kids, but it does require that you find a way to cool your heels for a while so your blood pressure has a chance to go down and you can stop seeing red.

There is a program called “Celebrate Recovery” that is worth looking into. It is a sort of 12-step program that is biblically based. Usually, one thinks of drugs or alcohol when talking about this sort of program. More recently, gambling and sex programs have also grown up, as have overeating and a wide range of others. One of the things that has shown up in common to all is anger, and to start with, you usually think of anger toward others as being the addiction. Yet deep within virtually every addiction you come across is anger toward yourself. This is something that needs to be addressed most of the time before any progress can really be made.

Nowadays, many churches, particularly evangelical churches, have men’s programs that help address these issues. Many churches also have “small groups” where you can get together with other men and try to work through some of your issues with others who may have been through the same thing.

Look, I’m not really pushing churches or religion. I just know that they have the resources to help you if you need it. I’ve actually stopped attending not too long ago, myself. So I’m definitely not pushing them. There is a fact that took a while to understand. Men need other men to talk to – to relate to. I’ve heard one preacher talk about it in terms of having a Barnabus, a Paul, and a Timothy in your life. A “Barnabus” is someone more experienced in life you can learn from. A “Paul” is someone who you are more or less on an even keep with. And a Timothy is a younger person you can help develop. All three help you to grow, and are instrumental to your long-term wellbeing.

I think I’ve said enough for now. Give it some thought. If you see me posting anywhere else, reply and I’ll try to respond. I’m on Facebook and elsewhere.

68 Jeff October 11, 2011 at 10:22 pm
69 chris October 12, 2011 at 9:24 am

This is a fantastic post full of really great material. Thank you so much for sharing this because it applies to my “valley” right now. I guess it’s time to start climbing to that peak……………

70 Ellias October 12, 2011 at 11:14 am

Easily one of the best articles I’ve read on the entire internet.

71 james October 12, 2011 at 11:21 pm

my theory thorugh life has been. “dont worry about things you cant control”.

72 Ross P October 13, 2011 at 7:38 am

My father was the first to give me the advice that “this too shall pass,” and I believe it has helped more than any other piece of wisdom that has been passed down to me. Like many, I suffer from bouts of intermittent depression. I used to think the depression would last forever when this would happen, but now I can recognize my symptoms and realize that those thoughts and feelings are inaccurate and temporary. I know they will pass in time, and life will once again be rewarding. Patience is all I need.

Thanks for the great article!

73 Martin October 13, 2011 at 8:41 am

This short phrase is a great piece of advice. I am intrigued, when I look back, in how, when caught in the muck, how I forget this.

Thanks for this reminder, lots of gems of wisdom.

74 barter411 October 14, 2011 at 9:24 am

Certainly there are heartbreaks along the road. Sometimes, as with pickup trucks, we are to blame. But if we are plagued with a guilty conscience over someone we have wronged…
1. Celebrate that you have a conscience.
2. Do what you know is right. Apologize/make restitution as needed.
3. Then get on with your life, a better man for it.

75 LW October 15, 2011 at 2:12 am

I’ll be damned. This is just what I needed to hear today. Thanks.

76 Johnny B October 15, 2011 at 10:27 am

Echoing the words of those that read this post and the ones who commented, great article. A great reminder that life is short and it’s not worth spending it thinking about “why me.” I am a firm believer that men are destined to lead, even when dealing with life’s challenges. Men need men… to come alongside and help push, support, encourage, rebuke help them get out of their “funk” by helping them see the bigger picture. “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”

77 ash October 16, 2011 at 5:58 pm

I really like this article.. during the tough times of my life i listen to the song by simon and gaurfunkel called the boxer.. it really helps me pass through hard times..

78 David October 23, 2011 at 11:33 am

I have been reading articles on this site for a year now but have never commented on one until now. I have been going through a very rough time in my life for the past few years and the timing of this post is exquisite. I hadn’t visited the site for a while and thought I would this morning. This was the first article that popped up and it has really affected me, more than any of your previous ones. Thank you, Brett and Kate, for the wonderful and thoughtful work you do here. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I know you have had a tremendously positive effect on my life. Thank you again,


79 Victor October 28, 2011 at 12:27 pm

As many above, I have stumbled upon this website, and your particular article in one of the lowest lows of my life. Thank you, truly thank you for the small speckle of hope!

80 Bruce October 31, 2011 at 2:45 am

Life isn’t worth it. Yes this may pass but it’ll come around again, harder, more black and depressing than the last time. It always does. For 20 years it keeps passing. See how your knuckles end on a slope down on both sides. That’s what you have to look forward to. I’m not a man because I can’t shake this. I’m not a man because I can’t be bothered with help. I will just pass.

81 Martin November 7, 2011 at 2:07 pm

Thank you for this article, Brett. The idea of “living fully in the tiny spaces of time” is very helpful during hard times. And “this too shall pass” will become another motto of my life (my first one is: “never give up”). Stay strong!

82 John Bartram February 26, 2013 at 3:38 pm

The message is true, even for the worst and most personal disasters. Those who do not believe it are failing to understand how it requires a a determined mental effort to resist looking either behind, or ahead, but just dealing with the here and now.
I’ve know people who survived the Holocaust and some lived happy, productive lives; others were miserable and killed themselves. A study showed how the happiest were those who didn’t look back.

83 Bradley April 16, 2013 at 5:39 am

I’m Bipolar and I’ve found the words so profound that I’ve had them tattooed on my forearm….

84 Bernardes July 30, 2013 at 7:28 pm

….and if you want to master yourself, you shall use “This too shall pass” not only in the valleys, but in the peaks too.

85 Stas October 19, 2013 at 7:24 am

Thank you for this wonderful post.
I remember going through some terrible tough times a while back, and a dear recommended me to buy a ring that will always reminding me a message “This too shall pass”. Since I wore the ring I easily overcome many big obstacles and achieve my goals.
You can find such ring on SealofSolomon store.

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