Resilience — the ability to bounce back when times and life get tough. Philosophers, religious thinkers, and social scientists have pondered what helps us to be more resilient. Is it toughness? Flexibility? Here are some thoughts:

American families have always shown remarkable resiliency, or flexible adjustment to natural, economic, and social challenges. Their strengths resemble the elasticity of a spider web, a gull’s skillful flow with the wind, the regenerating power of perennial grasses, the cooperation of an ant colony, and the persistence of a stream carving canyon rocks. These are not the strengths of fixed monuments but living organisms. This resilience is not measured by wealth, muscle or efficiency but by creativity, unity, and hope. Cultivating these family strengths is critical to a thriving human community.

— Ben Silliman, Family Life Specialist with the University of Wyoming’s Cooperative Extension Service

Life’s challenges are not supposed to paralyze you, they’re supposed to help you discover who you are.

— Bernice Johnson Reagon

In times like these, I look to the past. I come from people not meant to survive, and here is our bloodline, stronger than ever.

— Brittany Packnett

Resilience is a systematic adaptation of the oppressed self under the arbitrary imposition of the political order. Emancipation is the liberation of the self from the oppressive imposition of the political order upon the self.

— Bruno De Oliveira

When fear rushed in, I learned how to hear my heart racing but refused to allow my feelings to sway me. That resilience came from my family. It flowed through our bloodline.

— Coretta Scott King

We rely upon the poets, the philosophers, and the playwrights to articulate what most of us can only feel, in joy and sorrow. They illuminate the thoughts for which we only grope; they give us the strength and balm we cannot find in ourselves. Whenever I feel my courage wavering I rush to them. They will give me the wisdom of acceptance, the will and resilience to push on.

— Helen Hayes

Let them play! The more they play, the more resilient and socially adept they will become.

— Jessica Joelle Alexander, The Danish Way of Parenting

The refusal to feel takes a heavy toll. Not only is there an impoverishment of our emotional and sensory life, flowers are dimmer and less fragrant, our loves less ecstaticâ but this psychic numbing also impedes our capacity to process and respond to information. The energy expended in pushing down despair is diverted from more creative uses, depleting the resilience and imagination needed for fresh visions and strategies.

— Joanna Macy

We don’t have to surrender our individuality to experience the world as an extended self and its story as our own extended story. The liver, leg, and lung that are ‘mine’ are highly distinct from each other, thank goodness, and each has a distinctive role to play. The larger ‘selfness’ we discover today is not an undifferentiated unity. As in all living systems, intelligence depends on the integrative play of diversity. Diversity is a source of resilience. This is good news because this time of great challenge demands more commitment, endurance, and courage than any one of us can dredge up out of our own individual supply. We can learn to draw on the other neurons in the neural net and view them with gratitude. The acts and intentions of others are like seeds that can germinate and bear fruit through our own lives, as we take them in and dedicate that awareness to the healing of our world.

— Joanna Macy

Resist. Protect. Build resilience and strength. Push forward. Transform.
With others. We can’t do this alone.

— Jone Johnson Lewis

It’s not our job to toughen our children up to face a cruel and heartless world. It’s our job to raise children who will make the world a little less cruel and heartless.

— L.R. Knost, Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages

You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.

— Maya Angelou

Unity to be real must stand the severest strain without breaking.

— Mohandas K. Gandhi

Information is shock resistance. Arm yourself.

— Naomi Klein

Suffering breaks our hearts, but the heart can break in two different ways. There’s the brittle heart that breaks into shards, shattering the one who suffers as it explodes, and sometimes taking others down when it’s thrown like a grenade at the ostensible source of its pain.
Then there’s the supple heart, the one that breaks open, not apart, the one that can grow into greater capacity for the many forms of love. Only the supple heart can hold suffering in a way that opens to new life.

— Parker J. Palmer, On the Brink of Everything: Grace, Gravity, and Getting Old

Like a wild animal, the soul is tough, resilient, resourceful, savvy, and self-sufficient: it knows how to survive in hard places. I learned about these qualities during my bouts with depression. In that deadly darkness, the faculties I had always depended on collapsed. My intellect was useless; my emotions were dead; my will was impotent; my ego was shattered. But from time to time, deep in the thickets of my inner wilderness, I could sense the presence of something that knew how to stay alive even when the rest of me wanted to die. That something was my tough and tenacious soul.

— Parker J. Palmer

Good luck is another name for tenacity of purpose.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson
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