Resilience: a matter of attitude

Yesterday I saw a television documentary type show we all indulge in now and then.  You know what I am talking about.  They cover true dramas and such.  In this show I was struck by a victim of a savagery most of us could not even imagine.  She survived the rape and multiple crushed bones to her entire body and face.  The doctors were amazed she was able to even live after such trauma.  Eventually, the man who attempted to kill her, and was successful in killing another woman in a different state, was caught, tried and convicted.  At the sentencing hearing of this man, the living victim got up and actually forgave him for all that he had done to her.  Even though she was still trying to recover her ability to speak because what he had done had caused severe brain injury to her, she was compelled to speak words of forgiveness to him at the hearing.  She said he chose to live with hate and fear but she chose to live with love and peace.  I was overwhelmed with such a feeling of compassion for this woman who chose to forgive the unforgivable.

Today I read a article about a woman who was bitten by a shark while on vacation in the Caribbean and shooting photos of white sharks.  It explained that she was always a fearless type of person and although, originally with some trepidation, she found herself enjoying the experience of being surrounded by sharks.  That is until one of the sharks decided she would make a choice morsel.  The shark bit off her upper back and part of the arm.  By sheer miracle she was able to survive this encounter only because her friends, who were with her in the water, were medical professionals and able to react quickly to her traumatized body.  However, her traumatized mind was a whole other story. 

This article spoke of the attitudes one has to have to survive such a horrific experience in one’s life and survive successfully through it.  Micki Glenn, the survivor, found a way to regain her confidence, her mental peace of mind and to survive with the memories of this near death experience.  I will quote from this article: “But she had a strategy, and it involved using her body to control her emotions.  ‘Every morning when I woke with a cloak of fear and despair around me, I chose to smile.  Sometimes tears were streaming down my face, but I forced my lips into a big smile, and I made a decision to be happy.  It was really powerful.  It was one of the few things I could control.’

“At the heart of all of Glenn’s resilient qualities is an attitude toward life that I’ve encountered over and over again in the survivors who return to life most successfully after traumas. One of the first things she (Glenn) ever said to me reveals a great deal about that attitude: ‘I’m really lucky’.  She went on: ‘I don’t regret that this happened to me  What surprises me is how something so horrific has been such a positive experience in my life.  I would never want my husband or my parents to go through that again, but for me, it was transforming.'”

I can personally attest to this same attitude.  I too experienced a near death experience that had me hospitalized for three weeks, two in a state of dementia, due to a brain condition called Hydrocephalus.  Experiencing this was bad on its own but it was preceded by the end of my marriage and ultimately resulted in the end of my self-employed career and ability to make a living.  I could have easily been swallowed up in hopelessness and despair, but I chose to forgive my spouse and to look to God to give me the strength to get through the worst experience I’ve ever encountered in my life.  Like Micki Glenn, I considered myself truly blessed for having gone through such a trying period.  Because like the song says: What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.  But from a personal perspective I can tell you that that inner strength also comes from a sense of faith.  No one human being in your life can give you that inner strength.  It only comes from God.  The grace to forgive and the strength to go on is an ONLY GOD thing.


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