May 4, 2021

That which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. (Or not.)


“What does not kill me makes me stronger.”
(“Was mich nicht umbringt macht mich stärker.”)
Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)
       German philosopher
       His famous maxim in Twilight of the Idols (1888) 
       The sayings “That which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” “That which doesn’t kill me makes me stronger” and similar lines are all descendants of the aphorism above, which comes from
the “Maxims and Arrows” section of Nietzsche’s book Twilight of the Idols. His original German line has been translated in several ways. Sometimes “Whatever” or “That which” is used in place of “What.” Sometimes “destroy” or some other verb is used in place of “kill” (though the German word Nietzsche used, umbringt, is derived from the verb umbringen, which is generally translated as meaning “to kill”).
       Today, English translations and variations of Nietzsche’s maxim are often used for ironic effect. But they are also frequently used in a positive way, to express optimism and determination in the face of adversity.


“There’s an old saying: that which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I don’t believe that. I think the things that try to kill you make you angry and sad. Strength comes from the good things — your family, your friends, the satisfaction of hard work. Those are the things that keep you whole. Those are the things to hold on to when you’re broken.”
Jackson “Jax” Teller (played by actor Charlie Hunnam) 
       Speaking in a voiceover
in the “Sovereign” episode of the TV series Sons of Anarchy. (Season 5, Episode 1. First aired September 11, 2012)


“What doesn’t kill us makes us bitter. I used to believe that to be both funny and true...I now have a thicker skin, I’m less likely to sweat the small stuff, and, perhaps most importantly, I have a renewed sense of humility. All in all, better. That being said, I still try to stay reasonably bitter in order to maintain my eligibility in the Writers Guild of America.”
Chuck Lorre
       American TV show producer
       An excerpt from
one of the popular “vanity cards” shown at the end of television shows he produces. This one comes from the “Spy Gaming” episode of his sitcom Big Bang Theory. (Season 4 Episode 22, first aired on May 5, 2011.) Lorre picked What Doesn't Kill Us Makes Us Bitter as the title of a book collecting his TV vanity cards.


“People say, That which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. But they are wrong. What doesn’t kill you, doesn’t kill you. That’s all you get. Sometimes, you just have to hope that’s enough.”                
Tayari Jones

       American novelist
       In the epilogue of her novel Silver Sparrow (2011)


“Of course, what doesn’t make you stronger, will kill you, so there’s also that.”                
Kaarli Sylvester Makela (a.k.a. Choko)
       American author
In her book Pure Speculation: One Juggalo’s Strange Story (2005)

See more witty variations of “What does not kill me…” in this previous post . . . 

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