My manager recently told me I needed to “learn to be more resilient.” At first, I took offense but, after reflection, I am determined to take his advice. How would you describe resilient people?

I would say that your determination to become resilient is the perfect start. It shows you have some resilience to work with.

An examination of the formal definition of resilience is enlightening: the ability to recover quickly after setbacks. The connotation of resilience as applied to inanimate objects is useful to consider, too. It refers to the propensity to “spring back quickly into shape after being bent, stretched or squashed.”

I have observed five things common to people who consistently demonstrate resilience. The first is that they don’t just accept change; they embrace it.

Resilient people welcome opportunities for change in the same way that gregarious people receiving a hug return the gesture: with great openness and enthusiasm. The consistently resilient expect and look forward to change by recognizing that change is necessary for growth. They know that, when people stop changing, they die. Resilient people equate changing with living.

Resilient people appreciate life’s journeys as much as its destinations. In fact, they may enjoy the process even more than the results. They are fully aware that at the end of every experience is a new beginning. This awareness prepares them for the fact that bouncing back is necessary.

People who possess resilience have the classic “attitude of gratitude.” They may be in a tough situation but, somehow, they are always mindful that some people have it worse than they do. They spend time thinking about the riches they have, even if these would be considered meager by most.

The resilient man or woman is neither too preoccupied to offer help where it is needed nor too proud to accept help when it is offered.

When times are tough, resilient people step outside their own concerns by serving others in need. This allows them to exercise their “resilience muscle” on behalf of others, even when they are uninspired by their own situation. This practice keeps them in shape to make change in their own lives.

When resilient people are experiencing difficult times, they humbly receive help from people who offer it. It is often pride that inhibits people from admitting that they may be in a situation they cannot handle on their own.

Finally, resilient people find meaning in pain and suffering. It is interesting that we wouldn’t think of complimenting a person as resilient if they had not first gone through some sort of setback. Even people who don’t follow Christ know that suffering builds character. Paradoxically, injuries of various kinds can actually make us stronger than we were before the misfortune or trouble.

Of course, we know as Christians that there is no Easter without Good Friday. Suffering is something that makes us turn toward God and, when we do, resilience is the inevitable outcome.

If you truly desire to be resilient, be sure that you stay close to the sacraments. They allow the gifts of the Holy Spirit to thrive in you. Fortitude is one of those gifts — and it is the grace that most people identify as resilience.


Catholic author, speaker and business consultant

Dave Durand is online at DaveDurand.com.