Every now and then, my almost-three-year-old will fall asleep between my wife and me. It’s actually quite adorable to watch. Inevitably, she will rotate from right-side-up, to sideways, to head down, to half on top of me. She’s a busy sleeper. She has no inhibitions — she just rotates whenever and however she wants.
It can be easy to live life in the same way my toddler sleeps. When something gets boring, tiring, confusing, frustrating or irritating, we often choose to rotate, flipping from one new thing to the next in an effort to find comfort. But in this pattern of constant rotation and flip-flopping, I firmly believe we are missing a key virtue in our time: Resilience.
“No matter how much it hurts, how dark it gets, or how far you fall, you are never out of the fight.” — Marcus Luttrell, Former Navy Seal (from the movie “Lone Survivor”)
Overcoming Obstacles or Letting Them Overcome You
Resilience is the virtue that counteracts the temptation we all face at times. In an age where things come to us almost instantly, the idea of persevering through a difficulty is becoming quite foreign.
What young people experience in high school and college these days is far from what the real world is going to offer them. Life will not shower us with praise and instant gratification. Our Lord tells us, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matt 16:14).
In being a disciple of Christ, living on this side of heaven, we will face hardships. With these hardships, you and I will either take the opportunity to be resilient, or we will give in to making excuses and pivot. The better habit is to be resilient, using prudence as our guide, rather than making excuses.
In athletics, it’s easy to blame the coach or another player’s mistakes for the outcome of a game. In life, it can be just as easy to blame a boss or co-worker’s mistakes, rather than examining our own efforts and faults. While at times it might be justified to address the shortcomings of another when it impacts our work or family, more often it will be our decision to act resiliently (or not) that will shape our future.
“Nothing great is ever achieved without much enduring.” — St. Catherine of Siena
I know what it’s like to make an excuse and pivot. I know what it is like to not have resilience. I was an athlete in high school and college. The transition and adjustment at the college level was something I wasn’t ready for. I only lasted one season. It was easy to blame my position coach and point to other desires rather than challenge myself to put more effort into it. Leaving the game might have been the right decision for me, but I let excuses rather than principles guide that choice.
I’m also learning more and more each day what resilience looks like in my life. Being married with two tiny kids and another on the way forces me to realize excuses are no longer a valid option. Excuses don’t put food on the table or create a culture of love in my family.
Now, there are times when changing course is the prudent thing to do. It isn’t always the right thing to bang our heads against a wall, convinced that we shouldn’t “quit.” Prudence is always our guide. This is where mentors, wise friends or spiritual directors can be a blessing in helping us make prudent decisions and discerning the Lord’s will properly.
That being said, my hope is, as my brothers and sisters in Christ, that you and I can live differently. My hope is that we can be resilient, not letting obstacles overcome us when we encounter them in our daily lives. My hope is that, in doing this, we can live a unique life that shines as a tremendous ray of hope in a world full of pain and suffering.
To be resilient is to carry our cross daily. We can find meaning in our obstacles, grace in our pain — and through the experience, we can be made more and more into who our Lord desires us to be.
What area in your life can you begin to shed excuses and live resiliently instead?
Here are a few clips that might motivate you as well:
From those who survive the hardest physical training on earth — the Navy SEALs:
Or on a lighter note, from the movie “Facing the Giants”: