Resilience explains how we can build purpose, confront pain, practice compassion, develop a vocation, find a mentor, create happiness, and much more. Eric s lessons are deep yet practical, and his advice leads to clear solutions.
We all face pain, difficulty, and doubt. But we also have the tools to take control of our lives.
The virtue of resilience
Resilience is the virtue that enables people to move through hardship and become better. No one escapes pain, fear, and suffering. Yet from pain can come wisdom, from fear can come courage, from suffering can come strength–if we have the virtue of resilience.
In my work with other veterans who have overcome injuries and loss–the loss of limbs, the loss of comrades, the loss of purpose–I have heard one thing over and over again: the moments of darkness often led, in time, to their days of greatest growth.
You can be tough on civilians, on people who ‘don’t understand’ what you’ve been through. But the battlefield isn’t the only place where people suffer. Hardship hits in a million places. And lost of people, including your neighbors, have suffered more than any soldier, and they’ve done so with none of your training, with no unit around them, with no hospital to care for them, and sometimes with no community to support them.
And when those people reflect on their suffering, they often uncover a similar truth: that struggle helped them to build deep reservoirs of strength.Not all growth happens this way. But a great deal of our growths does come when we put our shoulder into what’s painful. We choose to, or have to, step beyond the margins of our past experience and do something hard and new.
Of course fear does not automatically lead to courage. Injury does not necessarily lead to insight. Hardship will not automatically make us better. Pain can break us or make us wiser. Suffering can destroy us or make us stronger. Fear can cripple us, or it can make us more courageous. It is resilience that makes the difference.
Choose to live a resilient life
To be resilient–to build a full and meaningful life of stength, wisdom, and joy–is not easy. But it’s not complicated. We can all do it. To get there, it’s not enough to want to be resilient or to think about being resilient. We have to choose to live a resilient life.
Resilience is not bouncing back
And whether we know it or not, when we think ‘bouncing back’, we’re thinking physics. When Isaac Newton published his great work on mathematics and physics, the Principia Mathematica in 1687, he did more than explain some of the fundamental laws of the Universe. He also set off something of a physics fad: suddently everyone wanted their thinking to be as logical, as precise, and as clear as Newton’s. If there were laws that ruled the orbits of the planets, surely there had to be laws that explained the human mind, human actions, and human societies.
The problem is that most of life just isn’t as black and white as Newtonian physics. And trying to treat human beings like variables in an equation leads to some bad thinking.
If we limit our understanding of resilience to this idea of bouncing back, we miss much of what hardship, pain and suffering offer us. We also misunderstand our basic human capacity to change and improve.
Life’s reality is that we cannot bounce back. We cannot bounce back because we cannot go back in time to the people we used to be. The parent who loses a child never bounces back. The nineteen year-old marine who sails for war is gone forever, even if he returns. You aren’t going to be the same man you were before your brother died. Your parents aren’t going to be the same parents. You know that there’s no bouncing back. There is only moving through.
Fortunately, to be resilient we don’t need to go back in time.
What happens to us becomes part of us. Resilient people do not bounce back from hard experiences; they find healthy ways to integrate them into their lives.
In time, people find that great calamity met with great spirit can create great strength.
Complement Resilience with The Dalai Lama in The Art of Happiness, in which he remarks the resiliency of human spirity when facing the most restless and turbulent conditions.