Is resilience something ingrained in us from birth, or is it a characteristic built on a lifetime of hardship? Why can one individual overcome a life of heinous and unspeakable misfortunes and afflictions, yet others fall into a deep dark life of depression, addiction and self harm? It is unclear why some demonstrate an immense capacity for resilience and others crumble at the first sign of trouble, but there are certain characteristics that the most elastic over-comers share.
Take into consideration the story of Immaculee Ilibagiza, an inspiration to anyone that has endured hardships which likely pale in comparison to what the young girl endured at the hands of evil. Immaculee endured some of the most atrocious misfortunes that are beyond comprehension and human imagination at the age of 24. As a Tutsi survivor of the Rwandan genocide of 1994, Immaculee lost her beloved mother, father, and two of her brothers to brutal murders at the hands of the Hutu enemies. She survived for 91 days with seven other Tutsi women locked in the three by four foot bathroom of a Hutu pastor who was a family friend. They were the lucky few, hidden from the savage slaughtering of over one million fellow Tutsis, often at the hands of prior friends, neighbors, and school mates that turned enemy due to socio-political differences. After enduring three months of starvation, silence, immobility, and the inability to shower, Immaculee and her peers were saved at the hands of French allies, however, were forced to witness hell on earth. Surrounded by stacks of dead men, women, and children raped, tortured, and chopped to pieces by Hutu machetes, the place Immaculee once called home was pummeled and destroyed, burnt to the ground, and scattered with the bodies of her loved ones and friends. At only 65 lbs, weak, and emotionally battered, Immaculee managed to learn English while locked in the pastor’s bathroom and developed faith beyond measure through prayer and optimism. Throughout her entire journey she relied on her strong faith in God and the power of prayer to carry her through. Not only did she forgive the man who murdered her mother and brother face-to-face, but she managed to acquire a job at the UN in Rwanda, eventually emigrating to the United States, marrying, and building a family of her own. She authored several books, earned five honorary doctoral degrees and now tours worldwide as a motivational speaker. The epitome of resilience, she is a testimony to the power of faith, prayer, and positivity in the midst of the most terrible tribulations.
As the ancient metaphor goes, “resilient people are like bamboo in a hurricane, they bend rather than break”. At the core is strength and a solid base. Just as the bamboo tree, a resilient individual such as Immaculee Ilibagiza has a strong foundation of faith that there is something larger than oneself. The realization that we as human beings do not have ultimate control, and we have to rely on a higher power for answers and strength despite our stubbornness to do things ourself. Resilient individuals see themselves as survivors rather than victims. Their cups are half full (optimism) rather than half empty (pessimism), and they have the desire to continue filling the cup in order to heal and overcome. Resilient people have a sense of purpose, and rather than allowing hardships to rip it away, they see them as an opportunity to fulfill their purpose even more.
Resilience is a staple of health and wellness, and although many likely have an innate characteristic that predisposes them to such strength, it is possible to build it with a support system and healthy lifestyle behaviors.
Stay tuned for part 2: Building Resilience
Read more about the story of Immaculee Ilibagiza here: https://www.immaculee.com