Resilience is something of a rarity in privileged societies. When all our needs are met, we start chasing after comfort. And that becomes a dangerous pursuit.
Have you ever really been hungry? I’m not talking about skipping breakfast and lunch, and looking forward to your dinner because you are “starving”? I’m talking about not having eaten for a few days. If you have, you will know that the only thing you would be focused on would be food. All you want to do is survive. And the only thing that could save you, is food.
Have you ever really been cold? I’m not talking about your spouse hogging the blankets on a winter’s night and your feet are exposed to room temperature in your suburban home. I’m talking about not having a shelter, or warm clothes, in the middle of winter. There is nowhere to go to get warm. If you know the feeling you will agree with me that the only thing that you can think about at that time is finding a blanket. All you want to do is get warm.
It’s during those difficult times that we learn to be resilient. Those are the times we either toughen up and find a solution, or we die. When we find ourselves in a situation of life or death, our survival instincts kick in and we will do whatever it takes to stay alive.
However, the opposite is just as true. When we never have to fight for survival or we never face any challenges in life, we become “soft”. We become so used to comfort and a pampered lifestyle, that we slowly start losing that survivor instinct. And modern-day philosophies are promoting the avoidance of challenges, struggles, uncomfortableness and failure.
In modern teaching practices we often talk about setting children up for success when designing assessments tasks. We are not really testing what they know because if we did, there would be a chance for failure and that is a no-no in teaching today. The idea that it would cause damage to a child if they had to fail is a ridiculous one. The notion that scores are not kept in sports matches because we don’t want any of the children to experience losing, is preposterous. The educational idea that young people shouldn’t be reprimanded because it might be embarrassing for them, or it might scar them is just as ridiculous. Of course there should be consequences when doing the wrong thing. Of course we should be reprimanded, and even punished, for inappropriate behaviour.
We are doing far more damage by shielding our youth from losing and failing, because those are the times when they learn important lessons. It’s when we lose a debate or a match, that we learn how to deal with difficulty and lose with dignity. We must realise that things won’t always go our way in life and when they don’t, we need to learn from it, build up resilience, and try harder next time. It teaches us to work for what we want. It creates a society that doesn’t expect everything to be handed to them.
It is quite easy to draw a correlation between resilience and a tough and challenging life. Those people who work hard for things and who experience many challenges and even failures, are the ones who know how to deal with life’s curve balls. They are the ones who know how to survive when facing challenges. And yet, here we are, spoilt, comfortable 1st world citizens, trying to tell the rest of the world that our way of education, “church practices” and raising a child is superior. We are the ones raising a generation that is undisciplined, disrespectful and totally unprepared for a life of challenges and disappointments. Maybe we need to stop trying to find our answers in man-made programmes and workshops and instead, look to our creator. He created us. What better guidance can we ask for than from the One who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. What more can we ever ask for when trying to raise a generation of integrity?