"Those things that hurt, instruct" is a famous Benjamin Franklin quote.

I googled its meaning and many forums say that it means that challenges make you stronger. But I cannot find how the words in the sentence suggest this meaning.

Can you break down the sentence and explain the meaning?

  • This is quite similar to What doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Commented Sep 7, 2015 at 10:16

5 Answers 5


"that hurt" is a restrictive clause which modifies (defines) "those things".

The verb phrase is "hurt", that is, "cause pain".

Hurt has both transitive and intransitive meaning:

Touching a hot frying pan hurts the fingertip. [to cause pain to something or someone]
Afterwards, the fingertip hurts. [to feel pain]

The entire phrase is the subject of the predication:

{Those things that cause pain} instruct.

  • "hurts' can also mean 'injures" here either or both meanings may well be intended, as most things that injure also cause pain. Commented Jun 26, 2019 at 2:11

Those things which hurt us can also teach us something as well...


"Life experiences, words of others may hurt or even break us but there might be reasons or purposes why all these things happen. Maybe somehow for us to "get the message"- to reflect, realize, ponder and awaken ourselves to be better individuals with broader horizons"

  • Can you explain how you arrived at this? That would be instructive to learners. Also, are you quoting something/someone? If so, please provide a reference for the source.
    – Em.
    Commented Jun 26, 2019 at 4:57

This quote means people in the world meet their problems in a direct way. They attempt to get out of them rather than suffer them. I found this answer in a book by Arun Tiwari, an autobiography of A.P.J Abdul Kalam, Wings of Fire.


It means the things that you are afraid of or you feel inferior to them; is the things you should do. Make the obstacles upside down. Those are "instruct" means instruction to do things which fears you most. Or you can simply say that: "Your greatest victory lies in your greatest fear"

  • The phrase isn't saying anything about things that a person is afraid of, it speaks about "things that hurt" that is cause pain or injure. it also isnt instructing anyone to do anything, it is saying that things which cause pain, also provide instruction, tha tis they teach a person something "The burned hand teaches best" Commented Jun 26, 2019 at 2:10

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