“Why do we fall, sir? So that we can learn to pick ourselves up.” -Alfred, from Batman Begins
This week, I want to share with you about a topic that fascinates me more than any other. If I spent the rest of my life learning about this topic, I don’t think I would regret a single minute spent. This topic is resiliency. I admire this trait immensely, even though I have a lot of room to grow in this area. Resiliency, to me, is the heartbeat of humanity. It’s what drives us to achieve what we have not yet achieved; it keeps us from staying in the shallow end of the pool; it draws meaning from our pain; it tells us to fight when everything else is telling us to throw in the towel. Resiliency is a beautiful, awe-inspiring gift to mankind. I hope that what I share with you this week may give you a deep desire for resiliency as well.
Back during my days at the residential center, I remember asking one of the boys what his favorite holiday was. I expected to hear something like Christmas, his birthday, or maybe Easter. I was surprised to hear him say, “Halloween.” I had never heard someone say Halloween before. I asked him why, not prepared for the answer that I was about to receive. He told me, “Everyone says Christmas, but you have to have money to buy all the presents under the tree. I grew up never having any money. But Halloween is different. When you celebrate Halloween, all you need is a container and a goofy outfit. Then, you can enjoy the holiday like everyone else.” I will be honest, I was fighting back tears. This young man understood a world that I knew little of. What impressed me the most about this guy was the fact that I never saw him without a smile on his face. He had a way of seeing the best in any situation. He went through a lot during his time in the program, and he had faced many hardships prior to his time with us. Still, he always found a way to bounce back.
In contrast, there were other guys that seemed to have everything lined up for them- school was easy for them, they had loving parents, friends, potential, you name it. However, I often found myself scratching my head when these same guys would jump from one poor decision to another. Often times, they would just tell me sob stories of how people had wronged them in little slights here or there. They bickered, complained, and had an overall negative outlook on life. I questioned if they were going to be successful in the adult world they were soon to face. It left me wondering- why did these guys have such trouble staying afloat while the guys with real problems were staying on their feet no matter what hit them? In my opinion, I think it’s resiliency. When you can’t find the strength to get back up, it doesn’t matter how good your circumstances are, you are finished.
When I say, “resiliency,” I am talking about the ability to keep your head focused and avoid becoming defeated by negative emotions. A person that has strong resiliency gets stumped, but rarely ever stays stuck. I believe resiliency is something that can be acquired by anyone, but it is not learned merely by demonstration alone. A person who sees resiliency in others may admire what they see, but that doesn’t mean that they will adopt the same mentality. A young man or woman must not only see resiliency in others, but build it in themselves. Developing resiliency is like building muscles through challenging struggle. When one finds it within himself the willpower to resist the forces against him, he becomes stronger. With each trial persevered, the person is more ready to take on new challenges.
I have come to the realization that there are two ways to respond to hardships, whether big or small: we either grow from them or they tear us down. My encouragement to dads is that we find within ourselves the desire to push forward when life has us down. We can get through the circumstances that life throws our way. To help our children develop resiliency, we can guide them toward sticking with the smaller stuff. By doing so, we can aid them in growing the mental and emotional muscles needed to take on the bigger things later on down the road. I am voicing my opinion again, but I truly believe that one of the greatest weaknesses that our country suffers in this day and age is the inability to bounce back when things get hard. We are a long way from the Great Depression and two world wars. We are not familiar with the tribulations that our grandparents and great-grandparents have had to endure. Instead, we live in a culture that gives us everything at our finger tips, brings comforts straight to our doorstep, and tells us over and over again that life is about having it our way.
Let us not as men, and the leaders of our home, become so comfortable or so disheartened that we are unable to stay on our feet when challenges come our way. It is our duty to lead our family toward strength, not only of body, but also of mind, will, and character. Life is not easy, but that does not mean that we throw up a white flag. We must press on and teach future generations to do the same. If resiliency is part of your story, someone that you know, or you have something that you would like to offer others related to the topic, then please share your comments. I still appreciate them.