I want to connect with you today about the opposite of quitting, the opposite of giving up, laying down, throwing in the towel and allowing the piper to play the victim’s dirge as he marches over your cringing body. I want to connect on a topic and a quality everyone wishes to be true of them. I’m talking about resilience.
As this column is being delivered to your door to be read over your morning coffee, I am in Alberta speaking at a conference on this very theme. It wasn’t my choice, it was assigned to me. The organizers wanted to know, “How does one keep from giving up when the waves are crashing relentlessly over your head and the shore is no longer visible?”
Over the years, I’ve noticed that resilient people tend to display a unique awareness of who all are impacted by their choices. They realize that each decision they make has ramifications for not only their own life but for the lives of everyone who loves them. Their perseverance — or lack thereof — impacts their co-workers, their spouse, their children and everyone who depends on them. Consequently, not giving up becomes about much more than their own convenience. It becomes an unselfish act embraced not only for their own sake, but for the sake of everyone they care about.
I’ve also noticed that those who are resilient have typically learned how to deal with life’s incessant distractions.
Resilience is a by-product of focus. When I was a university student, I worked one summer on a sod harvesting crew. We were taught both the secret and the importance of cutting sod in a straight line.
Anyone who has ever laid sod knows that a straight cut is crucial. When setting out on the tractor across a virgin field of lawn, we were taught to pick out one telephone post on the far side and to never, for any reason, take our eyes off it.
As long as we stayed focused on that pole the cut would be straight as an arrow but the moment we allowed ourselves to be distracted, the evidence of our distraction would be glaringly obvious. Resilient people learn to keep their eye on the goal.
Another characteristic of resilient people is their realism about life. The concept of resilience presupposes hardship. Why would one need to talk about perseverance if life was downhill both ways? Some people always seem surprised when their turn to experience hardship comes around. Resilient people anticipate it and aren’t thrown by it.
Finally, I’ve noticed that resilient people tend to choose good models to emulate. Ask them about their heroes and they are not stuck.
They have noticed those who live well and pattern their own lives accordingly.
This is a “faith” column and although everything I have written is observable common sense, it actually has its roots in the sacred writings of Scripture. Centuries ago, one writer summarized everything I’ve said in these few, pithy words.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance (resilience) the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”
Not a bad blueprint for how to live the way we all want.
Tim Schroeder is a pastor at Trinity Baptist Church in Kelowna and chaplin for the RCMP and Kelowna Rockets. This is a regular Okanagan Weekend column.