Are you fragile or resilient?

August 30, 2023

“How on earth are you not a quivering mass on the floor unable to function in the world?”

That is a composite of the feeling I was having as I listened to one of my clients pour out his life story to me. Trauma was an everyday thing to him growing up. Horrific neglect, abuse, and poverty dominated his toddler, childhood and teen years. Every story he told was more outrageous than the previous one.

Yet, here he was, totally put together, intelligent, and thoughtful. He was a good dad, husband and community servant, passionate about discovering his calling and unique contribution to the world. I’m still shaking my head. And I’m wondering how he became so resilient in the face of such a catastrophic life.

With that as a backdrop, where would you place yourself on the tenacity scale:

Fragile ………………………………………………………………………..Resilient

“Have we inadvertently raised a generation that has fewer tools to manage hardship and transform adversity into agency?” That’s what Jill Filipovic wondered aloud in her recent Atlantic Magazine article entitled The Resilience Gap. While addressing the pervasiveness and controversy of trigger warnings, Ms. Filipovic suggested how we might “replace our culture of trauma with a culture of resilience.”

I realized that each of her recommendations played out in my client/friend’s story:

  • “To help people build resilience, we need to provide material aid to meet basic needs.”
  • “We need to repair broken community ties so fewer among us feel like they’re struggling alone.”
  • “We need to encourage the cultivation of a sense of purpose beyond the self.”

This last suggestion was exactly why my friend was meeting with me. He wanted to get a better handle on his best contribution to humanity. Not surprisingly, his calling became fairly evident as I walked him through the Calling Quilt coaching experience. He wants to provide a better future for people, in particular marginalized children, who have had to face deep trauma.

This man is resilient!

I love the questions that Ms. Filipovic uses at the end her interviews with women who have experienced trauma. “I always end our conversations by asking them to reflect on how far they’ve come, and what they are proudest of.” She does this to “let the women feel seen in full, beyond the worst things that had happened to them.”

Let me ask you the same questions. How far have you come? And what are you most proud of? Your answers might reveal just how resilient you have become.


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