Any fellow Baby Boomers out there remember the "Bozo the Clown Bop Bag?"
When I was a kid, Bozo was quite the rage. He was an inflatable, life-sized boxing toy. (Well, at that point, 4 feet in height was life sized!) Bozo’s base was filled with sand, and both his nose and hair were squeaky. You could punch smiling Bozo with all your might, and down he would go. And voila, within seconds, he would bounce right back up! Still smiling.
Have you heard the term “resilience” bandied about recently? The term is often used to denote emotional strength and the ability to bounce back after difficult life experiences. Psychology Today defines resilience this way: “Resilience is that ineffable quality that allows some people to be knocked down by life and come back stronger than ever. Rather than letting failure overcome them and drain their resolve, they find a way to rise from the ashes.”
When I think of what it means to be resilient, I immediately think of good ‘ole Bozo. And as I’ve gone through difficult life circumstances of my own, I’ve wished I could bounce back as quickly as that lovable, inflatable clown.
Is resilience genetic? Are some born with it and others not? In my humble opinion, NO! It’s a character quality that each of us can develop, and it all starts with personal resolve.
Clearly, some parents are better at building resilience in their children than others. Rescuing a child from their mistakes does not build resilience. Neither does a life of complete ease, where work is not required to earn results. Those parenting styles merely build a sense of entitlement.
As adults, no matter how well we’ve been raised, difficult circumstances can hit us full force. Experiences like the onset of disease, the death or betrayal of a spouse, addiction of family members, random acts of violence and economic downturns can knock us down emotionally and physically.
The million dollar question is this: how do we respond? Do we wallow in self-pity, blaming others and assuming the role of a victim, reciting every chorus of “Woe is Me?” Or do we choose the road of resilience?
I’m not a psychologist, but I feel as though I’ve earned a “PhD in life” over the last decade. And here are some of the lessons I have learned about resilience:
-Resilience does not mean denial. It doesn’t mean pretending that painful experiences didn’t happen.
-Resilience does not negate the importance of grieving. When a huge loss or heartbreak has occurred, it is vital to allow yourself to experience the stages of grief.
-Resilience begins with a choice. It requires having a goal of thriving once again in life and in believing that, with God's help, it is possible. I remember these verses: “I place before you Life and Death, Blessing and Curse. Choose life so that you and your children will live. And love God, your God, listening obediently to him, firmly embracing him." Deuteronomy 30:19-20 MSG
-An attitude of gratitude is a key nutrient for developing resilience. No matter how deep the valley, there are always reasons to be grateful. And focusing daily on the good things in life, no matter how small, helps you to spring back. As it says in Philippians 4:8 “You’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious – the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.” (MSG)
-Keep your sense of humor. That is another key nutrient for building resilience. Even on the darkest of days, look for reasons to laugh. Maybe it’s just me, but I often seem to find reasons to laugh…at myself!
-Allow supportive, encouraging friends to help. When I have felt discouraged or overwhelmed, I can count on wise and loving friends to “pour courage” into me. Don’t dismiss the helpful words that people share with you. Savor them. Meditate on them.
-Celebrate your small victories. One nugget shared by Sheryl Sandberg as she recovered from her husband’s sudden death: keep a list each night of two or three things you did well that day. Maybe it was just getting dressed or going for a walk. Be your own cheering squad. Rejoice over every baby step of progress.
-Most essential: clinging to faith in a loving God who will never let go. Even when I may not feel strong, I know that as a Christian, I have the indwelling Holy Spirit. And when I am weak, He is strong. His grace is sufficient. His power is made perfect in my weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9)
Resilience is something that each of us can develop. No matter where you find yourself in life, no matter how old, no matter how many mistakes you have made, no matter what has happened, you CAN bounce back. Say “YES” today and get on the road to resilience. Will you immediately bounce back like Bozo? No. But baby step by baby step, you can choose life and choose to thrive for the remainder of your days!
Keep smiling, Friends!
“Let us not be surprised when we have to face difficulties When the wind blows hard on a tree, the roots stretch and grow the stronger, let it be so with us. Let us not be weaklings, yielding to every wind that blows, but strong in spirit to resist.”