The topic of resilience is close to my heart as I am reflecting on the recent “Poway Synagogue Shooting” in my hometown of Poway, CA. It is impossible to understand the emotions associated with a mass shooting until you are in the midst of the fallout of one. Families, communities, and organizations have come together and demonstrated a resilience that is truly astounding.

Whether people realize it or not, this kind of strength and resilience to bounce back from tragedy is inside of every person, and although we bounce back we are never the same.

From the day we were born, we begin to learn how to overcome and respond to a crisis.

Though my childhood was tumultuous and traumatic for most of it, I can look back today and see how in the midst of trials there was a greater story building strength and resilience in me.

The following statements are taken from “The Resilience Test“.

1. I believe I was loved by my parent/guardian when I was a child.

Reflect back on your childhood. Can you say you believe you were loved by your parents? While sometimes you may not have felt loved, do you believe that you were loved?

For myself I know I was loved, but more than often I didn’t feel it. There is a difference. As an adult, I can look back and say “yes, they did love me.” Even though they didn’t show it in a positive way. My mother was an alcoholic and abused pain medication. She didn’t have the capability of showing me love in a positive way. However, I know she loved me.

I would have to answer this statement, yes. That’s a resilience point in my favor.

 

2. When I was a child, someone other than my parents helped take care of me and seemed to love me.

Did you have a relative, a friend’s parent, or a neighbor help care for you? Did you feel loved, safe and cared for by someone other than your parents?

While I was a child I had a friend’s mother that included me in their family. I ate, helped, prepare meals, did chores and regularly spent the night at this family’s house. They treated me like one of their own children. I knew I was safe and felt loved when I was with that family.

I would have to answer this statement, yes. That’s a resilience point in my favor.

 

3. My parents and/or family shared playful and joyful experiences with me as an infant.

Do you have pictures of yourself as a baby laughing and having fun? Did you hear stories of playful, fun or joyous times when you were an infant?

I have seen pictures of myself as a baby, laughing and having fun. My aunts would tell me stories that they use to play with me all the time when I was very small. Even if this didn’t happen all the time, you were still building resilience as you were joyfully played with and loved as an infant.

I would have to answer this statement, yes. That’s a resilience point in my favor.

 

4. There was a relative in my family who made me feel better if I was sad or worried as a child.

Was there someone who tried to make you feel better about a situation? A relative that wanted to make things better for you somehow?

For me, this is a “sometimes” answer. I remember a time after I was scolded, my grandmother came and gave me a hug and said it would be okay. That little bit can bring hope to the smallest child. Grandparents or older relatives have more maturity and can bring a bigger perspective to a situation. Sometimes, when parents are just overwhelmed at spilled milk, a grandparent might brush it off as just an accident. They may even laugh at the situation, while they help clean up the mess.

I would have to answer this statement, yes. That’s a resilience point in my favor.

 

5. As a child, my neighbors or friends’ parents seemed to like me.

There is a difference between like and love. Did you feel welcome at a friend’s house? Did the neighbor smile or wave to you when you were outside? Did the neighbor say thank you with a big smile for bringing their paper to the doorstep?

It’s the little things that count and build resilience.

For me, there was a woman across the street that often needed help cleaning her house. After I was finished with my chores at home, I would ask her if she needed any help. She poured on the praise when I would clean the dishes, mop the floor or dust the living room. This genuine appreciation of what I did for her gave me confidence. It showed me that I was valuable and she was glad I was there.

I would have to answer this statement, yes. That’s a resilience point in my favor.

 

6. Teachers, coaches, youth leaders, or ministers were there to help me when I was a child.

Did you have someone outside your family that you could talk to? Was there a teacher that took an interest in you and wanted to see you succeed?

Outside support is essential to building resilience and success in a person.

For me, there were a couple of teachers that seemed to really enjoy having me in their class. I would spend extra time in classrooms where the teacher really cared about me. This only fortified my relationship with this person and allowed me a safe place to talk openly. I also had a Girl Scout leader that made all of our troop feel like we were special and could come to her at any time. My questions were never considered stupid. This woman even called my home to offer help and support, saying I was worried about my mom. Unfortunately, my mother took that as betrayal and I was severely scolded for it. I never revealed this to my scout leader, but she always took the time to ask how I was doing.

I would have to answer this statement, yes. That’s a resilience point in my favor.

 

7. Someone in my family cared about how I was doing in school.

Was there someone who was interested in your grades? Did anyone praise you for a great paper or the lead in a play? If you were doing poorly in a subject, did they offer help?

I always felt I had to do good in school, or else. It wasn’t that my parents cared, from a supportive way, rather I was expected to do well or there would be consequences.
I remember bringing home failing grades in spelling. My mother was determined to improve those grades. I would spend hours practicing the spelling words for the next week at the end of our dining room table. She would test me each night and I would have to write those words over and over again until I got them correct on the next test she gave. I started to get 100%, but it was based on fear. I just used memorization to get through these weekly spelling tests. My father took great pride in my math ability and tried to help when necessary. Math was “different” then and I ended up teaching him a couple of things. We still laugh about it to this day.

I would have to answer this statement, yes. That’s a resilience point in my favor.

 

8. As a child, my family, neighbors, and friends talked often about making our lives better.

Was there an attitude of improvement for yourself or your family? Were there goals that were shared?

I often heard people talking positively about improving their lives. When you are surrounded by negative conversations such as, “Our lives are bad”, “It will never get better”, “I can’t change anything”… it has a major impact on how you view your own set of circumstances. When you listen to the adults around you talking about changes they can make to improve their life or your own, it has a positive impact on you. My parents would talk about saving for a better future, a bigger house, better cars, vacation, etc. These all point to living a better life. Then when those things did happen, it gave encouragement that I too could plan and make changes in my own life for the better.

I would have to answer this statement, yes. That’s a resilience point in my favor.

 

9. I had rules in my home and they were expected to be kept.

Did you have chores? Was there a curfew? Were you taught and expected to use your manners? Were the consequences for your actions spelled out?

There were definitely rules in my home, and if not obeyed there were consequences. While by today’s standards those consequences would be considered extreme, I knew what those rules were and understood the consequences if I choose not to follow those rules. Rules are necessary and provided for a stable environment. They also set the stage for being an adult. Society is based on rules. If you don’t pay your electric bill, you won’t have lights at night. Simple. There are no excuses. It’s very simple and spelled out. There are moral, ethical and legal rules that all should follow. I learned early on that your actions and decisions dictated the outcome of your life.

I would have to answer this statement, yes. That’s a resilience point in my favor.

 

10. I could almost always find a trusted person to talk to when I felt really bad.

Was there someone in your life could you go to when things were bad? Can you identify someone that offered wise counsel?

It is important not to confuse wise counsel versus having a person “fix” our problem. No one else is responsible to “fix” our issues.

For me as a child, I could always reach out to my friend’s mother. I always talked to my best friend and if my friend ended up worried after we talked she would go and talk to her mom. While at first, this seemed to be a betrayal, it was not. When the situation is more than a child can bear, an adult should be brought in. Looking back, I often felt betrayed, why? Because the situation was about to change. That meant I was going to have to do something different. That’s uncomfortable. It is so much easier to complain, whine and blame others. It’s also easier to stay in a bad situation because it’s what you know, even if it’s bad. Having a trusted friend and adult is necessary to help us grow.

I would have to answer this statement, yes. That’s a resilience point in my favor.

 

11. As a youth, people noticed that I was capable and could get things done.

Did you ever receive praise for a job well done? Were you the go-to-person in your family, organization, school, etc?

I can answer this with a capital YES. Even with everything that I endured in my life, I was definitely this person to so many. I took great pride in being organized, could see how things needed to be done efficiently, and liked that people asked me to help.
I would work really hard to get praise and feedback that I was a “good” kid. When others see an asset in you, you can take that truth and realize how capable you are in your own circumstances. Turn that can-do attitude on yourself. See in yourself what others see in you. Learn that you are a “good” person, and loved.

I would have to answer this statement, yes. That’s a resilience point in my favor.

 

12. Even as a child I was independent and go-getter.

Could you take on a project and complete it without much oversight? When you saw a problem did you take initiative to help solve the problem?

This is a built-in resilience trait. This automatic response is part of your self-confidence. Some people are just wired this way.

I am one of these types of people. I have a sense of justice and want to see fairness exhibited to all people. This trait is also learned. Growing up with an alcoholic mother, I found myself needing to take care of my younger brother. I didn’t want him to experience the neglect that I did. To ensure he was cared for, I took the initiative to make sure he had lunch money, got up for school, had clean clothes and ate breakfast. This spilled into the rest of my life. If something or someone needed to be taken care of, the only person I could count on was myself. This trait ended up serving me well. I usually got any job I interviewed for, I was promoted early and frequently and started numerous organizations and ministries to serve others.

I would have to answer this statement, yes. That’s a resilience point in my favor.

 

13. I believe life is what I made it.

Did you feel responsible for you? Were you able to examine your actions and evaluate the role you played in any given situation?

For better or worse, I was always blamed for anything negative that went on my home. I was the easy scapegoat. As a small child I really felt that I was responsible for everything, even my mother’s drinking. It didn’t help that she told me I was the reason she drank. By the time I hit 9 years old I was seeking out wise counsel. Asking those trusted adults, if this was really my fault. I was blessed to have people that cared about me and how I viewed myself. Because of my sense of justice, I would question why something was my fault. This led me to the ability to sort out what was true and what was a lie. I also recognized when my behavior or actions exacerbated the situation. I would think of how I could do things differently and change the outcome. I could choose to be happy, find the good in all situations and put things into place so I wouldn’t make that same mistake again.

I would have to answer this statement, yes. That’s a resilience point in my favor.

 

14. There was a spiritual belief system in my home growing up.

Did your parents take you to church? Were there conversations about God in your home? Did you witness and take part in prayer?

For the better part of my childhood, we were lukewarm Christians at best. We usually went to church on Easter and Christmas. We said the same prayer at dinner every night and another at bedtime. However, there were stretches of time where we went to church weekly and then wouldn’t attend for years at a time. This was very difficult for me. I had a need to be in the presence of God. When my family wasn’t attending church, on Sundays I would knock on the neighbor’s door to see if their family was going to church and ask if I could join them. I attended many different churches, because of this. Jesus was always talking to me. I would spend hours singing Jesus Loves Me on my swing set in our backyard. At one point, I even asked my parents to attend a Christian school. I thank God every day for his diligent presence in my life. I would have never made it through my childhood had I not witnessed his love and grace.

I would have to answer this statement, yes. That’s a resilience point in my favor.

Hopefully, now you see a clearer picture of all the positive results of your childhood experiences. It is through this that all can learn to see the hope of God’s faithfulness. Resilience is not just stumbled upon, it is forged in the trials and tribulations of life, causing us to become mature and complete (James 1:3-4).

Taking this perspective, you can help others see the light at the end of the tunnel, the gold in the rough, and the hope of a better tomorrow. Being a resilient person requires learning how to reflect on that which made you stronger and applying it in your current situation.

Click Here to Take the Resilience Test