We seldom talk about the warrior spirit in our Courage & Renewal retreats. I haven’t been a warrior myself, although my father did hard combat service in the Pacific in 1944 and never spoke of it to his children. I only know it haunted him.
That’s why the story behind this new book caught my attention. In RESILIENCE, Navy SEAL Eric Greitens writes letters to a brother in arms who is struggling with PTSD and the aftermath of serving in Afghanistan.
His friend needs the courage to come back to life. The courage to create “the good life” for himself by reconnecting to meaning and purpose. And tapping into wisdom, including his own. He needs to find what to do with his suffering wrought by combat. He needs resilience.
The recent events in Baltimore and Nepal remind me that we all need resilience—for the challenges of everyday life and for the overwhelming times when it seems the whole world is sending prayers for resilience and strength.
I hope this excerpt offers some encouragement today:
“The Good Life” Takes Resilience
Math is a subject that allows for precision. If I ask you “What’s seven times seven?” you know the exact answer: forty-nine.
But what if I ask you “How do you deal with fear?”
Life—and the subject of resilience—rarely allows for perfect precision. Real life is messy. Attacking your fear can lead to courage, but there is no equation for courage, no recipe for courage. It gets mixed up with anger and anxiety, with love and panic.
This isn’t an excuse for sloppy thinking: the virtues have been the subject of rigorous, disciplined thought from before Aristotle to today. But when the question is “How do we live a resilient life?” we also have to be ready to accept ambiguity and uncertainty.
There are strategies for dealing with fear and pain. There are strategies for building a life rooted in purposeful work. There are strategies for building a home that is happy even when things are hard. But the strategies won’t reach into your life and resolve your fear or your pain. You have to live your answer.
And look, Walker, nobody’s ever going to hand you a prize for resilience. There is no certificate. No T-shirt. (And don’t even think about a tattoo.) There will be no line to mark the point in your life at which you “got” resilience.
With resilience, you and I are not in search of an achievement, but a way of being.
Remember all of this when you go to live your own answer. You demand a lot from yourself. In this case, you’re going to need to be patient, even kind to yourself.
You won’t be able to judge most of what you do by a standard of imperfect or perfect. Usually, our standard will simply be worse or better.
But better sounds good, doesn’t it?
Excerpt from RESILIENCE by Eric Greitens. Copyright © 2015 by Eric Greitens. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Eric Greitens offers his friend encouragement, sincerity and wisdom. We see how friendship often also demands leadership—leading others to uncover their inner strength.
Who can you encourage today?
Where in your life do you (or others) need resilience?
P.S. Develop your resilience and leadership at a Courage & Renewal program.
Of all the virtues we can learn, no trait is more useful, more essential for survival, and more likely to improve the quality of life than the ability to transform adversity into an enjoyable challenge.
– Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi