Difficulties change us. How can we remain strong when nothing is the same?
The following first appeared as a guest column in the Winter 2017 men's edition of Inside Journal®.
Inside Journal is a quarterly newspaper printed and distributed by Prison Fellowship® to correctional facilities across the country. Written specifically for incarcerated men and women, each issue (offered in a men's edition, a women's edition, and a Spanish-language edition) explains the Gospel in a fresh way, offers encouragement and motivation, and shares practical advice for the daily struggles of prison life.
People often define resilience as bouncing back from difficulties. But that’s impossible. You can never bounce back to the way things were because we are bound by time and experience, and both change us. You are a different person now than you were before. You can, however, integrate your life experiences into the person you want to become. You may not be able to bounce back, but you can bounce through to the other side.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE RESILIENT?
To be resilient, first you need to set a vision for who you want to be and decide which values will take you there. The second thing is to confront the ugliness right in front of you—the setbacks and risks in your own personal circumstances or the lingering consequences of your mistakes. Most people gravitate toward one or the other. They set a pie-in-the-sky vision that doesn’t account for the facts they face, or they get too paralyzed by the weight of their present situation to imagine how things could be different. Resilience lies in setting a middle course that holds vision and present reality in tension—deciding who you want to become and then choosing values that will guide you toward your goal, come what may. Principled perseverance and resilience are one and the same.
I have a friend serving a 24-year sentence who was a high-ranking gang member. He has a vision. He wants to incorporate positive values into his life, but he also knows that, when he gets out of prison, a number of people are going to want to harm him. The bounty on his head is the brutal fact he must struggle with. His greatest fear is that he will forsake his values.
I encourage my friend—and all you readers—to focus on building up your character. Internalize positive values until they become part of you. That way, in the moment of testing, you will be able to respond out of who you are—a new person—and you'll be able to bounce through.
ABOUT CODY WILDE
Cody Wilde is the national director of Academy operations at Prison Fellowship.
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