by MSG Tiffany A. Lowe, US Army
From conception, unbeknownst to us, we have a sense of resilience. In the womb, during the developmental stage, a developing fetus’ quality of impending life depends on its mother, which in turn activates an inherent survival instinct. Resiliency is a crucial aspect of life that allows individuals to bounce back from difficulties and challenges. In an article for the magazine American Psychologist, Dr. Martin Seligman wrote about how positive psychology can help people become more resilient. In trying to figure out how to be resilient, authors viewed topics from a preventative rather than a treatment for past traumas only point of view (Waskewich, 2019).
The purpose of resilience is to overcome life’s challenges and victories. To build resilience in children, teaching resiliency in the home is vital. When resilience is taught in the home, children can build a solid foundation. It is important to explore what resilience is, how childhood influences impact it, explain how resilient children blossom into resilient adults, learn to function in a crisis, and how resilient leaders impact the military and their organizations.
Resilience is a person having the ability to withstand adversity and bounce back from difficult life events. Being resilient does not mean a person does not experience stress, emotional upheaval, and suffering. Resilience involves the ability to work through emotional pain and suffering (Hurley, 2022). It is a complex, dynamic, and multi-dimensional construct essential for well-being and survival. Resilience encompasses various personal qualities, such as determination, optimism, emotional regulation, and a keen sense of self-worth. It is not a static trait but a process that a person can develop and refine over time. Resilience is about overcoming adversity and the capacity to thrive and grow despite life’s challenges (American Psychological Association, n.d.). A resilient person can face difficulties with grace, strength, and persistence. They can maintain their emotional balance, manage stress, and maintain their sense of well-being in all tough situations. Also, resilient people can learn from their experiences and use these lessons to build upon their strengths and improve their lives. Resilience is not something that individuals are born with; it is a quality developed and strengthened over time.
The importance of teaching resilience cannot be overstated, and by promoting resilience, strength within oneself is built. Resilience is a critical factor in managing stress and adversity and is increasingly recognized as a vital aspect of personal and professional success. In today’s fast-paced and rapidly changing world, individuals face increasing challenges, from work and family pressures to financial and health concerns. To handle these challenges, it is essential to develop resilience. The need for resilience will always be found in all areas of life.
In the workplace, employees who can manage stress and adversity are more productive, engaged, and motivated and less likely to suffer from burnout or other stress-related health problems. In the education sector, resilient students are more likely to succeed academically and develop the necessary skills. In the community, resilience is essential for an individual to manage the stress and challenges of everyday life. Additionally, resilient people are more likely to manage life’s difficulties, maintain healthy relationships, and pursue their goals with determination.
Overall, the need for resilience is increasingly recognized as a critical factor in managing stress and adversity and promoting personal and professional success. A resilient person demonstrates awareness, self-control, problem-solving abilities, and social support. Resilient people know their surroundings, emotional reactions, and others’ conduct (Cherry, 2022). By developing resilience, people can better manage life’s challenges and maintain a positive outlook, even in the face of difficulty, and understand that childhood influences play a crucial role in the development of resilience.
The evolution of child-rearing has changed over time, and the attitudes and practices of child-rearing have also changed. Diverse cultures have different approaches to child-rearing, and these approaches can have a significant impact on a child’s resilience. Positive and adverse childhood experiences can influence a child’s resilience, and it is crucial to understand the impact of these experiences on the development of resilience. Child-rearing practices vary across cultures, reflecting each society’s unique cultural values, beliefs, and norms. Understanding these differences in child-rearing practices is essential in children’s resilience development. The emotions and perspectives had as a child has a significant impact on the quality of the relationships had as an adult (Hamishpachah, 2010).
Children in various cultures are taught early on the importance of becoming self-sufficient and independent. In these cultures, parents may encourage children to take risks and to learn from their mistakes, which helps to build resilience. Some other cultures raise children to focus on interdependence and the importance of family and community relationships. In these cultures, children may be taught to rely on their support networks, which helps to build resilience in the face of adversity. Other cultures raise children to have a strong emphasis based on education and academic achievement, which helps to build resilience and determination in the face of academic challenges. Lastly, some children have a spiritually based upbringing, which helps build resilience in facing life’s challenges. The child-rearing practices in distinct cultures reflect each society’s unique cultural values and beliefs. Understanding these differences can shed light on the development of resilience in children and inform strategies for promoting resilience in distinct cultural contexts. As an essential aspect of life, resilience can help a child’s future as they journey into adulthood.
Resilience into Adulthood
The importance of resilience through childhood cannot be overstated, as it builds the foundation for future challenges. There are instances of resilient adults who have overcome difficult childhoods and have used their experiences to build resilience. The connection between childhood experiences and adult resilience is strong, and the role of family, environment, and personal resilience cannot be ignored. Children with parents in the military are well-rounded, culturally literate, tolerant, and remarkably resilient. They are taught from an early age that home is where the heart is and that wonderful friends can be found in every corner of the globe. These kids discover that to survive is to adapt and that the door that shuts on one chapter of their lives opens to a new, thrilling journey filled with new friends and experiences (Hurley, 2022).
Resilient adults can overcome negativity, stressors, and thrive despite life’s challenges. They have developed the skills and traits to maintain their emotional balance, handle stress, and maintain their sense of well-being. They are optimistic, resourceful, and have a keen sense of self-worth, which enables them to approach life’s challenges with determination. Many resilient adults have experienced adverse events or challenging circumstances in their childhood or adult life. However, rather than being defeated by these experiences, they have used them as opportunities for growth and learning. Resilient adults can also use their experiences to help others and be role models for future generations.
Former South African president and civil rights activist, Nelson Mandela, born on July 18, 1918, spent his life working to eradicate South Africa of an unfair and discriminatory legal system called apartheid (Blakemore, 2020). As a highly educated Black man born to a well-to-do family, he was eventually imprisoned for 27 years for opposing the apartheid system prior to his election to serve as president. A prison sentence that was meant to break him not only mentally, but emotionally as well, fueled his desire to continue to speak. Resilient adults such as Nelson Mandela overcame such atrocities because of the foundations of resilience that helped them through adulthood. These foundations of resilience can help people through moments of isolation during pandemics and global crises that impact the world.
Resilience During Crisis
In 2019, the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic took the world by surprise. As it rampantly spread through the globe, the COVID-19 virus that originated in Asia, caused the world to shut down to preserve life as global leaders worked to understand how to get ahead of it. The worldwide pandemic meant major shifts in how people conducted their daily lives, widespread economic and political unrest, and natural catastrophes. People were also coping with more intimate tragedies, such as the death of a loved one, deteriorating health, job loss, divorce, witnessing violent crimes, or experiencing a tragic accident (Robinson & Smith, 2023). The mandated shutdown isolated people from the freedom of movement they often took for granted.
Those that did not or could not understand the concept of resilience suffered major burnout. First responders such as medical professionals had to face the reality of the suffering the world was experiencing with sudden illness and death of the young and old, rich, and poor. They were also subjected to increasing temperaments of those in need but because of the limited resources provided to them, they often had to turn people away. Increasing resilience was one of the most effective methods to get one ready for an emergency, as resilient individuals and teams are better able to adapt, be flexible, and work together (Payne, 2021).
While the pandemic stopped people from leaving their homes unless they were first responders, it did not stop people from connecting with others through virtual platforms. Resilient people learned how to function in a world that kept them indoors by expanding their minds more. It triggered the interest to create job opportunities from home, take advantage of online educational opportunities, learn, or refine a skill, and even reconnect with their families since there were no outside distractions. As the mandated lockdown lifted, the resilient individuals went back into the world and continued to thrive as resilient leaders that have not only overcome adversity but had to overcome a pandemic.
Even in adversity, resilient leaders may sustain stability, progress, and foster a positive and productive climate. In addition, they can attract and retain outstanding Soldiers who are drawn to the tenacity and optimism of their leaders. By fostering resilience in leaders, organizations may cultivate a more resilient culture in which Soldiers are equipped to overcome obstacles and lead their organizations to success. This is equally important when a new leader takes command or responsibility of a unit. As a first sergeant (1SG) charged with serving as the senior enlisted leader in Echo Company, 3rd Battalion, 501st Assault Helicopter Battalion (AHB). 1SG Lowe worked to rebuild a company of Soldiers and noncommissioned officers (NCO) committed to improving the organization and its reputation (personal experience, 2018).
Utilizing her Master Resiliency Training (MRT) certifications enabled 1SG Lowe to educate her Soldiers on overcoming biases that hindered them from believing they were not a combat multiplier in the battalion and brigade which was imperative for their upcoming deployment to Afghanistan. Resilient leaders like 1SG Lowe are crucial for the success of organizations in today’s fast-paced and rapidly changing operational environments. They provide specific abilities and characteristics that enable them to deal with stress and adversity, preserve stability, and foster growth. Even under hardship, resilient leaders can negotiate complicated difficulties and maintain a clear perspective. They are capable of guiding those with whom they serve through challenging times while maintaining an optimistic view and a future-oriented perspective.
Master Sergeant (MSG) Roy Benavidez is a prime example of a child that overcame a difficult childhood, grew into a resilient adult, enlisted in the United States (U.S.) Army, and impacted those he served with. MSG Roy Benavidez, an orphan, and a high school dropout, enlisted in the Texas Guard in 1952 before converting to active duty in 1955 (January, 2022). His drive to make something out of the unfortunate circumstances he survived through drove him to push past the adversities and setbacks he experienced throughout his life. Resilient leaders like MSG Benavidez developed skills and traits to maintain their emotional balance, handle stress, and maintain a positive outlook, even in the face of adversity. Resilient leaders can adjust to new conditions and draw on the resources provided by their organizations to triumph over challenges (Mahaffey, 2023). Resilient leaders are optimistic, resourceful, and have a keen sense of purpose, which enables them to approach challenges with determination and resilience. Resilient leaders understand that adversity and stress are inevitable components of leadership, and they have developed coping strategies and support networks that allow them to overcome these challenges.
Before MSG Benavidez deployed to Vietnam in 1965, he had passed the special forces assessment and went on to serve as a green beret. After stepping on a landmine, doctors prepared to separate him from the Army due to the injuries he sustained (January, 2022). MSG Benavidez maintained a clear perspective and focus on his goals to continue to serve and a year after his injuries, regained his ability to walk against all odds. He would go on to return to Vietnam and sustain other injuries as he courageously saved his fellow service members from enemy fire. MSG Benavidez was eventually awarded the Medal of Honor by President Ronald Reagan in 1981 (January, 2022). He would spend his time after retiring from active duty to speak around the country, especially to children. He used his childhood, military, and firsthand experiences to help others and serve as a role model.
Leaders like MSG Benavidez helped other military leaders to develop the skills and qualities associated with resilience, such as adaptability, determination, and a positive outlook. One key aspect of resilience for military leaders is managing stress and maintaining their mental and physical well-being. This relies on the leader to have an in-depth knowledge of the effects that stress has on the body and the mind, as well as the ability to successfully manage stress through the application of coping strategies and procedures. Resilient military leaders can also maintain a positive outlook and focus on the mission, even in adversity and setbacks. They can provide guidance and support in times of adversity and create a positive and supportive team environment that promotes resilience in the face of challenges. Overall, resilient leaders in the military play a critical role in ensuring the success of military operations and the well-being of their Soldiers. By developing resilience, military leaders can better handle the challenges of their work and help to build a culture of resilience in the military.
Resilience begins by building a foundation in the home from childhood. The approach to raising resilient children starts with understanding what resilience is, how childhood influences impact resilience, how resilient children become resilient adults, how they learned to stay resilient through crisis, and lastly, how resilient leaders impact the military and their organizations. By teaching resilience in the home, children can learn how to build a solid foundation of resilience that will help them grow into resilient adults. Adults with resilience may endure adversity and pressures but prosper despite life’s difficulties. They have developed the abilities and characteristics necessary to maintain emotional equilibrium, manage stress, and preserve their feeling of well-being. MSG Benavidez and the former South African president, Nelson Mandela, proved not only to themselves but the world that the benefits of teaching and learning resiliency are long-lasting and can positively impact future generations.
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Waskewich, M. (2019). The value of resilience. Army University Press. https://www.armyupress.army.mil/journals/nco-journal/archives/2019/september/the-value-of-resilience/
MSG Tiffany A. Lowe enlisted in the Army as an Automated Logistical Specialist, 92A. Her notable leadership positions include drill sergeant, platoon sergeant, first sergeant, and branch NCOIC in the support operation section. Her overseas tours include Korea, Hawaii, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Poland. She is currently a student at the resident Sergeants Major Academy and will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in leadership and workforce development.
As the Voice of the Veteran Community, The Havok Journal seeks to publish a variety of perspectives on a number of sensitive subjects. Unless specifically noted otherwise, nothing we publish is an official point of view of The Havok Journal or any part of the U.S. government.