Only Through Pain Do We Grow - Carolina Country

Only Through Pain Do We Grow

Discomfort can lead to great things

By Jacob Brooks

Only Through Pain Do We Grow

Greetings, Carolina Country family! It’s your old pal Jacob, coming to you from the promised land, otherwise known as North Cackalacky. I’m excited to share that I’m back in the good Old North State. Believe it or not, I tricked the fine folks at Chapel Hill into educating me again. And my wife, Katie, is pursuing her doctorate at Duke. (It seemed only fitting that since she taught me about SEC football — War Eagle — now I should teach her about ACC basketball as a household divided.)

These past few months have been challenging and uncertain for us all, so I wanted to share some words with you that I hope will bring you a sense of comfort and hope, if only in the slightest way.

“I thank God for pain. Because only through pain do we change, and only through pain do we grow.”

I heard these words while on Youth Tour approximately 10 years ago. Mike Schlappi, a Paralympian, was challenged with inspiring 1,500 sunburnt teenagers from rural America. From where I sat, it seemed a difficult task for any keynote speaker. It was 8 o’clock in the morning.

Ninety-nine percent of the feet in the room were blistered. And the luxury air conditioning in the ballroom of the Hyatt was no match for the D.C. humidity. Fortunately, Mike was up to the task.

He was a talented student athlete whose collegiate dreams were cut short after he was accidentally shot. Paralyzed from the waist down, Mike recalibrated his life, adjusted his dream, and became a gold medalist in men’s wheelchair basketball. The themes of his message resonated with me then, and they resonate with me now.

Appreciate failure, embrace discomfort, learn humility, grow.

Failure has long been an acquaintance of mine. The first time I mowed the yard, I turned one of Mama’s favorite laurel bushes into mulch (in my defense, I was 9). I once incorrectly taught my fifth graders how to divide fractions. My students were smarter than me and corrected my error. And I constantly forget which week is the recycling week — a fact my dear wife never lets me forget.

Appreciate failure, embrace discomfort, learn humility, grow.

The encouragement to embrace discomfort and to learn humility certainly came in handy while studying abroad in South Africa. Not only had I been immersed in a new culture where my southern drawl made me stick out like a sore thumb, but I came to the program as a novice. My professors and fellow students intimidated me. Each were more knowledgeable and accomplished in their areas of study. I was afraid I would expose myself as an unqualified undergraduate just trying to keep up. But I recalled my time as a Youth Tour participant and leaned on Mike’s words. I embraced my discomfort, humbled myself, and owned my inexperience.

Because I set aside my ego, my perspective evolved.

Because I humbled myself, I absorbed the significance of sitting less than 50 feet away from Archbishop Desmond Tutu while he addressed our cohort — I’ll have to write a book on this one day. His powerful story of rebuilding post-apartheid South Africa alongside Nelson Mandela and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission changed my understanding of the world. Because I heeded the wisdom I heard while on Youth Tour, I knew what to do with my uncertainty. Long story short, I grew.

Our days certainly aren’t lacking for pain. But the charge is on us to embrace it and grow. Do know that I’m out here in the world trying to do the same. All the best to you and your loved ones.

About the Author

Jacob Brooks represented Blue Ridge Electric on the 2010 Youth Tour to Washington, D.C., when he first began writing his “Log” for Carolina Country. He is currently studying law at UNC-Chapel Hill. Drop him a line at

Comments (1)

  • Jacob and his wife represent our future. I've seen them grow and continue to grow and contribute to the world and their ,ours and my future!

    Helen Alexander |
    July 25, 2020 |

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