Resilience

On May 14, 2016 in her Berkley Commencement Speech, Facebook Chief Operating Officer, Sheryl Sandberg reminded the world that getting through or getting out is not based on who we know, how much money we have or why we got here in the first place. She said, “And when the challenges come, I hope you remember that anchored deep within you is the ability to learn and grow. You are not born with a fixed amount of resilience. Like a muscle, you can build it up, draw on it when you need it. In that process you will figure out who you really are…”

I think we all need a little more conversation about resilience. For many of us, our nearest grip on this muscle is sports television, grief, music, celebration, or timeless characters like Michael Oher in the Blind Side and Captain Miller in Saving Private Ryan. Too easily, we mistake our outward achievements as proof of accumulated resilience. Like we could measure it in ounces or pounds. Listen. You or I could survive a fatal illness, a multi-track train crash, a divorce, we could even stop traffic naked, crossing the street as slow as the 4th grader on the way to the principal’s office. None of this promises resilience. I believe resilience is a choice. A choice to recognize my dignity beyond my experiences.

This life giving, life protecting muscle gives way to pain, beauty and imagination. But, if we fail to see our dignity – worth – aside from such great things, we pack on our shoulders and stir into our gut suffering upon suffering. I think we add to our resilience simply by showing up (really really showing up – we’ll talk more about this next week) for the things we find uncomfortable, rather than adding up experiences that make us look more like the next person. I think that is what we admire about Oher and Miller. In fact, resilience in slow motion looks more like the little choices than the big ones.

Big decisions are overrated. Learning or showing up is less complicated than we make it. Something like, $5 in my gas tank so I can keep my appointment with the doctor. Or, replying to the the text message with a “yes,” rather than the usual “no,” giving way to see friends. Resilience grows when we repeat back to ourselves, “The sun is up. I’m going to stand up.”

sunlit track

Perhaps, the best service to self and others is the conversation. There, people change and courage is given its proper colors and textures. For many of us, the idea of resilience is somewhat fleeting because we see the mountains in front of us. Let us not forget that within our surpassing (more value than words can provide) dignity, our resilience is fighting for us. Join the conversation and decide: I am fiercely on my own side.