Archives For Suffering

Resilience.

The word is often misunderstood. Most people think the word means “bouncing back.” We often refer to people, especially kids who get knocked down as “resilient” kids. While there is some truth in that comparison, I have learned that resilience as a life virtue is something much greater. And important.

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Glencoe Valley, Scotland. Photo by Ray Devlin

This post is a reminder of why I started writing–thinking of my children first, and then others that I love and want to encourage. In life, we are forged by our experiences and resilience is the tool. It is tempting to retreat when hard times come our way. As I reflect on my life, I’ve been guilty of doing so and regret it every time. Self-doubt, insecurity, and depression can haunt us. They are the levers of defeat and none of us can escape them fully. Enter resilience. My reminder of resilience is the picture above of Glencoe Valley in Scotland. It hangs in my office. Glencoe was carved out of some of the harshest weather of the Scottish Highlands. I’ve traveled through Glencoe in clear skies, shadowy mist, and even blanketed snow. There are no perfect weather guarantees at Glencoe and that is why it is so beautiful and mystical. It haunts me because it is resilient.

I recently listened to a podcast interview with Eric Greitens who wrote a book about the virtue and properly titled it, ResilienceThis is perhaps one of the most important books to our development as human begins. I love the writing style Greitens utilizes as a friend sharing wisdom with another friend. After all, we as frail people needs good friends and mentors to encourage us along the way.

For a long time, I looked at Eric Greitens as someone who is too good to be true. Athlete. Duke graduate. Rhodes scholar. Humanitarian. Navy SEAL. Founder of a non-profit supporting veterans. Governor of the state of Missouri. All accomplished by a 43-year-old. His public appearance is of a man who has done all of the right things.

After reading, it is evident that he as suffered as most people do and has developed a sense of humility about it. Resilience has been an important book to help me dive back into the classics by Homer and Aristotle, and is helping shape the way I think about the world and my life challenges. I am grateful for this book and would put it at the top of a must read for anyone wanting to understand their suffering or how to help someone who is going through trials.

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There are many challenging quotes from the book that I pulled. I hope you will be encouraged to fight through with resilience. You are not alone.

Why Resilience

“We all need resilience to live a fulfilling life. With resilience, you’ll be more prepared to take on challenges, to develop your talents, skills, and abilities so that you can live with more purpose and more joy. I hope something here can help you to become stronger.”

“What happens to us becomes part of us. Resilient people do not bounce back from hard experiences; they find healthy ways to integrate them into their lives. In time, people find that great calamity met with great spirit can create great strength.”

Leadership

“Leaders lead from the front. Never ask someone to endure more than you are willing to endure yourself.”

“Beware the person who seeks to lead and has not suffered, who claims responsibility on the grounds of a spotless record.”

“We are almost always better led by those who have pushed themselves up to and past their limits than by those who don’t know where their limits are.”

The Fight

“And it’s often in those battles that we are most alive: it’s on the front lines of our lives that we earn wisdom, create joy, forge friendships, discover happiness, find love, and do purposeful work. If you want to win any meaningful kind of victory, you’ll have to fight for it.”

“When we have meaningful, fulfilling, purposeful work, it radiates through our lives.”

“You’ll understand your own life better, and the lives of others better, if you stop looking for critical decisions and turning points. Your life builds not by dramatic acts, but by accumulation.”

“What usually matters in your life is not the magical moment, but the quality of your daily practice.”

“If we are intentional about what we repeatedly do, we can practice who we want to become.”

“Resilient people do not bounce back from hard experiences; they find healthy ways to integrate them into their lives.”

Responsibility

“At the root of resilience is the willingness to take responsibility for results.” 

“You are not responsible for everything that happens to you. You are responsible for how you react to everything that happens to you.”

“People who think you are weak will offer you an excuse. People who respect you will offer you a challenge.”

“Any nation that draws too great a distinction between its scholars and its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards and its fighting done by fools.”

Facing critics

“Know this: anyone who does anything worthy, anything noble, anything meaningful, will have critics.”

Understanding pain and hardship

“Resilience is the virtue that enables people to move through hardship and become better.”

“To work through pain is not to make it disappear, but to make it mean something different for us—to turn it into wisdom.”

“To move through pain to wisdom, through fear to courage, through suffering to strength, requires resilience.”

“An unwillingness to endure the hardship of a depressed time keeps us from the possibility of capturing the wisdom and strength and joy that can exist on the other side. There is a season to be sad. Painful things hurt. Allow yourself to be hurt.”

Humility

“I begin with humility, I act with humility, I end with humility. Humility leads to clarity. Humility leads to an open mind and a forgiving heart. With an open mind and a forgiving heart, I see every person as superior to me in some way; with every person as my teacher, I grow in wisdom. As I grow in wisdom, humility becomes ever more my guide. I begin with humility, I act with humility, I end with humility.”

“If you start with humility, you see every person as your teacher.”

 

Most of the nation has entered a freeze.  Blizzards have overtaken us in parts of the midwest and northeast.  Schools have closed. People are stuck and can’t move.

Yeah, I’m ready for spring just like you.

My father reminded me about my grandfather who fought (and was wounded) at The Battle of the Bulge.  This was the largest battle of World War II and was the Hitler’s last chance to save the war.  The allied victory sealed the German’s fate.  There were 80,987 official American casualties (19,000 dead) and the majority of them happened in the first three days of battle.  It was even worse for the Germans.

All of this happened in a deep European freeze.  The weather was much like what we are encountering this week. On top of that most of the troops didn’t have any of their winter gear so they were left with normal uniforms without gloves and other essentials.  Meanwhile, they were being attacked by hundreds of thousands.

You can read about the details of the battle here. You also get a good glimpse of the battle portrayed in movies like Battle of the Bulge (1965)Patton (1970), and the Bastogne episode of the miniseries Band of Brothers (2001).

When I hear people complain about the weather in the winter, I think about my grandfather Branch and the many others who endured this battle. It also makes me remember that our soldiers are currently fighting in weather like this in Afghanistan.

Remember who fought in the real cold for us.  We are free because of them.

Remember the Frostbite

Imagine crashing in the ocean in a B-24.  You drift thousands of miles with two others for weeks. Sharks try to eat you.  You are strafed (shot at) by the enemy.  On top of that you are captured by the Japanese. Nonstop torture ensues for two years.  When the war ends in 1945 you are released and lose half your body weight due to being starved and beaten.

5 years later…

Read this scene after the person, Louie Zamperini, who endured what I described above revisits his POW camp in Japan.

“Before Louie left Sugamo (the prison), the colonel who was attending him asked Louie’s former guards to come forward.  In the back of the room, the prisoners stood up and shuffled into the aisle.  They moved hesitantly, looking up at Louie with small faces.

Louie was seized by childlike, giddy exuberance.  Before he realized what he was doing, he was bounding down the aisle.  In bewilderment, the men who had abused him watched him come to them, his hands extended, a radiant smile on his face.” – excerpted from Unbroken copyright 2010 by Laura Hillenbrand.

After I read this I couldn’t believe his reaction.

He shook hands with the enemy.

What Zamperini experienced was beyond what anyone should endure.  And what did he do?

He extended his hand.

He forgave.

Grace appeared and Jesus is revealed in his story.  Let us take notice. It is beautiful.

———

We have a lot to look forward to this year in 2014. I highly encourage you to read Unbroken but the feature film will be coming out this Christmas. You can watch the trailer here.

Recently I watched the movie Valkyrie starring Tom Cruise, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy, and Eddie Izzard.  If you don’t know much about the story, there have been detailed and exciting documentaries on the subject but it short, it is about the plot to assassinate Hitler in 1944 by Germans.  Tom Cruise plays the lead character Claus Von Stauffenberg who led the failed assassination.  Brilliantly directed by Bryan Singer (Superman Returns, The Usual Suspects), the story comes to life in Hollywood style.  The movie is quite underrated primarily because it was written off by viewers because it featured Tom Cruise during the period of his freak out in the media.  I was intrigued by the story.

The movie got me thinking about the tremendous sacrifice in the story led by these brave Germans in the face of evil.  Americans in particular tend to think of all Germans living in 1930s and 1940s Germany as “Nazis” but it is so far from the truth.   There was brave people throughout all of Germany who who fought openly behind the scenes against the Nazis. One of them was the great German theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  I have been reading a biography on him, Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxes.  Metaxes previously had wrote the story Amazing Grace about William Wilberforce fighting to end the British slave trade.  Metaxes understands great sacrifice in his stories and with Bonhoeffer, it was about the role of the church in the face of evil.  I am of German descent so my passion is to learn more about these people and honor their lives.

I can’t believe I am m quoting Braveheart but this line is so powerful and to the point: “Every man dies, it’s just a question of how and why.”

The question kept popping up in my head, what am I dying for?

I began to think about those before me who have made such immense sacrifice. Some that came to mind: Martin Luther King, Jr. died for the injustice and suffering of the African American people, Claus Von Stauffenberg and others in the Valkyrie conspiracy died to save Germany, Bonhoeffer died to save his country and the message of his King, Jesus, Lt. Mike Murphy died “for the men next to him” in Afghanistan, Nelson Mandela stood up to fight the injustice of apartheid while forgiving those in it, and Jesus died for all of us and all of it.

Then there are those close to me that have been tremendous examples.

In high school, my cousin Carolyn overheard some other kids talking about “blowing and shooting up the school.”  This was in years following Columbine so things like this was not to be played around with at schools especially then.  She risked her reputation to make sure kids are protected.

When I was 18, my father took a week off work to join me and friends hiking in Colorado.  His boss could not reach him by phone during that period and he was let go a couple months later because his boss didn’t feel that he was “committed” enough. My father sacrificed for me and our relationship.

For justice.  For country.  For a friend.  For a son.  To just “do the right thing.” All in the name of love.

But…

I need to die for something?

Well, it may not mean you actually dying but what in this short life are you “risking”?  I’m challenged to figure out what this means to me.  I may never encounter a situation of having to stand up to a “Hitler” or a “Terrorist.”  But I know I need to “risk” in order to “live.”

Okay back to Braveheart: “Every man dies, not every man really lives.”

For me, this has been a time to engage with my two little girls and my wife and play less golf.  I used to play everyday until my early twenties.  I know that I need to take more out of my leisure time and devote it to helping others, I’m just not sure what exactly.  It may also mean that I need to break away from the “traditional” elements of life and embark on the unknown of a career.  Lots to pray about as I clearly don’t have all the answers.

What about you?

-Is your business doing something “on the fringe”?  You can go about your business as well but you can change the way things are done.

-Do you defend the reputation of someone being misrepresented at work?

-Do you stand up for the kid being bullied in the hall?

-Does your church needs people to work the night of your favorite TV show?  God gave us DVR, use it.

-When you drive down the street when you see someone who is genuinely homeless what will you do next time?

Everyday you are approached with a situation involving potential sacrifice. You may not have to die for it but you will have to make the tough decision.  It takes courage.  It takes faith.

Don’t just “let it be.”

Life is worth sacrifice, always.


PS.  I am blessed to work with a tremendous man and author, Max Lucado.  In his upcoming book Outlive Your Life: You Were Made to Make a Difference, Max shares this in the opening chapter:

“A few years back, three questions rocked my world.  They came from different people in the span of a month. Question 1: Had you been a German Christian during World War II, would you have taken a stand against Hitler?  Question 2: Had you lived in the South during the civil rights conflict, would you have taken a stand against racism?  Question 3: When your grandchildren discover you lived during a day in which 1.75 billion people were poor and 1 billion were hungry, how will they judge your response?

I didn’t mind the first two questions.  They were hypothetical.  I’d like to think I would have taken a stand against Hitler and fought against racism. But those days are gone, and those choices were not mine.  But the third question has kept me awake at night.  I do live today; so do you.  We are given a choice…and opportunity to make a big difference during a difficult time.  What if we did?  What if we rocked the world with hope?  Infiltrated all corners of God’s love and life?  What if we followed the example of the Jerusalem church?  This tiny sect expanded into a world-changing force.  We still drink from their wells and eat from their trees of faith.  How did they do it?  What can we learn from their priorities and passion?”

It is incredible that it has been 21 years since A River Runs Through It released.  I was a mere 14 years of age and trying to figure out what the world was about then.  To be honest, I have not ceased that pursuit. The tears still run down my face when I watch this beautiful film.

The movie is timeless and I’ve always thought it as one of my top 10 favorite movies. Robert Redford beautifully narrates the film.  You can sense his voice connecting with the author as one looking back at life reflecting on the journey and what one has learned. To add, Mark Isham’s score completes the emotions on-screen. I listened to the soundtrack when writing this.

The story is from the perspective of Norman Maclean played by Craig Sheffer and his interactions with his family after he comes home from college in the 1920s. His brother Paul played by Brad Pitt in particular is wild and rebellious but the connection between them remains deep as does their heritage as Macleans living in the beautiful state of Montana. I don’t have a brother but I’ve come to appreciate what it means to care for someone no matter where they are or how rebellious they may be. My uncle is one whom I love and now could be near meeting his maker (since writing this post, he passed on July 2nd, 2010, his birthday). My mother has been like the character Norman and my uncle in his later life has been the character Paul. It has not been easy and in many ways the whole family has wanted to give up on him. But we have not. There is a conversation between Paul and Norman that illustrates my mother and uncle’s situation.

Paul: Couldn’t you find him?
Norman: The hell with him.
Paul: Well, I thought we were supposed to help him.
Norman: How the hell do you help that son of a bitch?
Paul: By taking him fishing.
Norman: He doesn’t like fishing. He doesn’t like Montana and he sure as hell doesn’t like me.
Paul: Well, maybe what he likes is somebody trying to help him.

Anyone who struggles to help a loved one might understand this line from Paul, “Maybe what he likes is somebody trying to help him.” Paul is speaking of himself if you follow the story and Norman immediately understands. I pray that it doesn’t get this way for my daughters as they grow older but I would never give up as my mother (nor their 93-year old mother) never gave up on my uncle.

There is another important line in the movie spoken by Norman’s father in one of his last sermon: “And so it those we live with and should know who elude us. But we can still love them – we can love completely without complete understanding.”

I feel as if I’ve been rescued many times by my friends.  And I have even tried to rescue a few.  My mother has been such a great example of how to love completely without complete understanding.

This is why it is so important to love and forgive.  We live in a broken world.  Lower your expectations but remain hopeful.

A fish may rise.

“Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it.  The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time.  On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs. I am haunted by waters.”

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