By Kristin Ahmed
Sometimes you hear things that you know are true. Sometimes you hear things that you know are important. I had that experience this week. I listened to a man named Christian Moore for two hours. He spoke fast and unpredictably, but with a generous helping of humor and charm. It was incredible.
The subject of his speech was resilience. Christian defines resilience as “the ability to bounce back when you have every reason to shut down-but you fight on!” He should know. He described his life as a severely learning disabled child growing up in a community with high levels of poverty and crime. He described the odds of someone from his background ever earning a college degree or obtaining any level of traditional success. The odds are not good. Yet Christian is a nationally recognized speaker, leader, and licensed social worker. He is resilient.
There are four types of resilience: relational resilience, street resilience, resource resilience, and rock bottom resilience. Each one of these four types of strength rely on a mechanism known as “the switch.” When Moore’s group studied what resilient people do, they learned that resilient people take both the positive and negative emotions that come into their lives and use them as fuel. They turn their negative emotions into a productive outcome. For example, angry people who are resilient use their anger to build up their own dignity. Depressed people who are resilient use their depression to cultivate empathy for others. Resilient people have made the decision that whatever life throws at them, they will not be defeated and they will use their adversity as fuel for their next endeavor.
Individuals with relational resilience recognize that their strength comes from being connected to others. They recognize that they must keep going and trying every single day because others are depending on them. They also recognize that they draw that same support from their families and friends. Being relationally resilient means recognizing and nurturing the vital human connections in our lives.
People with street resilience take the pain of disrespect, discrimination, and regret and use it to fuel their productive action. Dr. Martin Luther King, Ceasar Chavez, Nelson Mandela, and other social justice giants had this incredible power. In modern culture, screaming matches and social media battles may seem like activism, but the concept of street resilience teaches us that meaningful, quiet, and consistent action is even more important. Street resilience is found in those who are dedicated to being the good they wish to see in the world.
Those with resource resilience use the resources they currently possess or could potentially possess to better their situations. When Christian Moore and his family were about to be evicted, he relied on his two talents. He knew he could talk non-stop and he could draw. Christian took photographs of large, elaborate homes in an affluent neighborhood and created watercolor paintings of the homes. He had the courage to knock on a stranger’s door to try to sell his painting of their home for $200. The woman, who had thousands of dollars-worth of artwork on her walls, was thrilled with the painting. Christian left with a $600 check. That’s being resourceful.
Rock bottom resilience
In our darkest moments, when it feels like we are all alone, and everything and everyone is out to destroy us, those are the moments when resilient people tap into their strength. The ability to flip the switch when you are at your lowest point is rock bottom resilience.
This is the reason why I wanted to share Christian Moore’s message with you. In the state of Utah, suicide is the number one reason for death of children ages 11 to 17. To me, this is more than just a devastating statistic, this is two of my young friends who are no longer with us. Both of their deaths profoundly changed the way that I look at my life. My heart aches for these families that are still struggling to find resilience through their grief. I have resolved that I must do something, say something, be something more than just the boring chemistry teacher who gives too much homework.
Dear young friends, please listen. Please use your pain to fuel your actions; because I promise you that there is still so much more for you to contribute to this world. Resilience and bouncing back truly can become your superpower.
For more information on resilience please go to whytry.org.