Resilience, Responsibility and Redemption.
While you can still make the case for the traditional 3 R’s: Reading, (W)riting and (A)rithmetic, I’d like to put my own spin on three R’s which are incredibly important in today’s society.
What is to follow is a brief and general discussion around the topics of resilience, responsibility and redemption.
As Nietzsche proclaimed in his book, “Twilight of the Idols”, “what does not kill me, makes me stronger.”, and this saying has been utilised by those preaching hardiness and a strong spirit ever since (along with Kanye and Daft Punk fans). Resilience is the ability to resist and overcome adversity rather than be consumed and overwhelmed by it, something which the current coronavirus pandemic is certainly testing us with. If anything, COVID-19 has showed us in some places how we are lacking in resilience and in other circumstances, more resilient than we thought. In their book, “The Coddling of the American Mind”, Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff discuss how the rise of overprotection and obsession with safety has led to the “untruth” of “that which doesn’t kill you, makes you weaker”, which is a bad idea (though maybe well intentioned) and it is setting a generation up for failure. Paranoid parenting has affected the younger generation’s ability to tolerate distress and uncertainty, but as the old folk wisdom suggests, we need to “prepare the child for the road, not the road for the child.” I think this extends to society more broadly as well.
Much like our immune or muscular system, it does us a disservice to remain stagnant and unchallenged. Our resilience needs building in order to withstand the vicissitudes of life. You have within you the ability to cope.
“Sometimes even to live is an act of courage.” - Seneca
While many of us are cleverly disguised as responsible adults, on the surface it may not look like there are a lot of positives about responsibility; added stress/worry, workload/duty of care, obligations, accountability and blame. However, it is a good way to take control of yourself (thoughts/behaviours/life direction), find meaning and lessen your suffering.
“What really frightens and dismays us is not external events themselves, but the way in which we think about them. It is not things which disturb us, but our interpretation of their significance.” – Epictetus
As human beings we love to externalise blame, we like to feel good about ourselves while pointing out the bad in others. It is easier and more comforting to attribute bad qualities to someone else than to ourselves. It is easier and more comforting to say that is not my responsibility, so-and-so should have done that (or not done that).
Former Navy Seals Jocko Willink and David Goggins are some examples of people who have gone to extreme lengths with regards to taking responsibility. Willink’s book “Extreme Ownership” centres around the idea of you being responsible for everything you do and taking complete ownership of your actions. As Goggins explains in his book, “Can’t Hurt Me”, he took it upon himself to overcome his life shortcomings and in the face of much adversity he made the Navy Seals and is now one of the world’s top endurance athletes. A lot of what these two talk about and embody also co-exists with resilience and discipline.
“Your worst enemy cannot harm you as much as your own thoughts, unguarded. But once mastered, no one can help you as much, not even your father or your mother.” – Buddha
As human beings, we make a lot of mistakes. A lot. And we have to continue to give people the opportunity to both make and learn from their mistakes, to be able to redeem themselves. If people are not allowed to redeem themselves for their wrongdoings, then people are going to be less likely to take the risks in order to succeed or bring forth an idea or try to work things out.
Returning to “The Coddling of the American Mind”, another “untruth” being paraded is that life is a battle between good people and evil people. This is not the case, as Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn poetically penned, “the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.”, in his book, “The Gulag Archipelago”, a critique of Stalin’s Soviet Union.
Former South African President Nelson Mandela offers insight into what a world without redemption nor remembering that good and evil is within each and every one of us: “When we dehumanise and demonise our opponents, we abandon the possibility of peacefully resolving our differences, and seek to justify violence against them.” And nobody wins when this happens.
It requires forgiveness, patience, trust and courage to redeem someone, even if that someone is yourself. You have to believe that the person is worth redeeming, which I’ll admit is not always easy, depending on the “sin”, as to most people some acts are truly irredeemable. It can be difficult, very difficult at times, but the world is a better place by encouraging the best out of its people and allowing people to make right on their wrongs.
So, please remember the three takeaways from my 3 R’s: Cultivate resilience. Take responsibility. Practice redemption.