Finding Resilience in the Face of Pain

I believe in certain truths that are universal for almost all human beings.

First, we all want to be loved, appreciated, and respected. Second, we all search for meaning and purpose in our lives and we want our lives to matter and make a difference. Third, we all seek to form and sustain meaningful relationships with other people because we are social creatures by our very nature. Fourth, we all want to experience happiness, however, we understand that concept. Fifth, we all have to deal with pain, disappointment, and heartache no matter who we are.

Our pain may come from many sources: illness, divorce, depression, addiction, loneliness, infidelity, rejection, loss of a spouse, grief, financial challenges, and a host of other things. Although some experience far more pain than others, nobody gets a pass when it comes to pain. In the face of pain, we are called to be resilient, to bounce back, to not let the trying times of life define us.

The Apostle Paul writes, “Suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope will not disappoint.” However, there are certain times in life when we do feel hopeless, as if everything is lost. There are certain times in life when we feel overwhelmed and can’t press forward. These are the times that we need to cultivate a resilient spirit and reach out for help.

The American Psychological Association once defined resilience in the following way: “The process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress — such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems or workplace and financial stressors. It means ‘bouncing back’ from difficult experiences.” Yet, bouncing back is not always easy, especially in situations of tragedy, extreme heartache, and great loss.

In 2002, Diane Coutu wrote an article for the Harvard Business Review titled “How Resilience Works.” She said that resilient people have three defining characteristics. First, they accept the harsh realities that are facing them. Second, they are able to find meaning in terrible times. And third, they have an uncanny ability to improvise and make due with whatever is at hand. They are survivors.

What many fail to understand is that resilience is actually a skill that must be developed in life. It is similar to faith, spirituality, and emotional intelligence. There are specific things that all of us can do to become more resilient, including:

  • Making strong connections with family and friends so they will be there when we need them
  • Not seeing any crisis as an insurmountable problem
  • Accepting that change is simply a part of life and we can’t fight it all the time
  • Recognizing that any hardship brings an opportunity for us to grow and become stronger
  • Keeping things in perspective in order to avoid catastrophic thinking
  • Maintaining a hopeful and positive attitude during difficult times
  • Learning to take care of ourselves; self-care is not selfish

A resilient spirit can be developed over time, and each of these ideas can move us in that direction. What is universal is that we all experience pain and heartache. The difference lies with how we respond to it and whether or not we are able to come back even stronger than before.


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