The Best Response to a Mass Shooting

image credit: chase.glenn

It shows up in the most devastating times and it changes everything.

We saw it one week ago in Charleston, when one young man sat through a Bible study for an hour before pulling a gun and ending nine innocent lives.

Only days after the shooting, Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church held services—and with the eyes of the nation on them, they stood resolved with the nine families in forgiveness for the man who killed their loved ones. And thousands showed up to walk the Ravenel Bridge in support.

“I’m reminded of some news media persons that wondered why the nine families all spoke of forgiveness and didn’t have malice in their heart. It’s that the nine families got it.” – Rev. Norvel Goff

They understand the power of forgiveness and love over bitterness and hate. They admitted they did not have the answers or know what to do except to keep begging God to heal their pain and bring justice.

Resilience made all the difference, and it is still making a difference.

What Resilience Is and Why It Matters

In their book, “Resilience: Why Things Bounce Back,” Andrew Zolli and Ann Marie Healy define resilience as “the capacity of a system, enterprise, or a person to maintain its core purpose and integrity in the face of dramatically changed circumstances.”

They describe the two essential aspects of resilience: continuity and recovery in the face of change.

It’s not some theoretical philosophy, but a necessary, practical, vital characteristic.

If we all experience change, we all need to develop resilience. (tweet that)

Resilience Can Be Learned

Author and Chief Operating Officer of Facebook Sheryl Sandberg wrote an article in one of her darkest moments, titled “Choosing Life and Finding Meaning 30 Days After Dave’s Tragic Death.” It’s a somber, heart wrenching read about the final moments before her husband’s unexpected death, the process of grieving, and how she expects to grieve for a long time.

“I have learned that resilience can be learned. Adam M. Grant taught me that three things are critical to resilience and that I can work on all three. Personalization—realizing it is not my fault. He told me to ban the word “sorry.” To tell myself over and over, This is not my fault. Permanence—remembering that I won’t feel like this forever. This will get better. Pervasiveness—this does not have to affect every area of my life; the ability to compartmentalize is healthy.” – Sheryl Sandberg

To be resilient is to keep on facing the unbearable conflicts in life without giving up. You press on, despite the resistance. After all, greater resistance means greater reward. (tweet that)

The Confounding Power of Resilience

Resilience is amazing when we see it. It’s when a calculated, radicalized young man murders innocent people who, moments before, welcomed him with open arms into their house of worship, yet the families of the victims choose to forgive instead of retaliate. Resilience is when we respond to hate with unbridled love, not because it’s easy, but because it is good.

Love itself is made of resilience; in love we learn to put down the weapons of our words and facts that we could use against our spouses or best friends, and instead we choose the other person. No matter what damage was done, we have a choice in how we respond.

Resilience is all over our lives. We could have it if only we were willing to face a little more conflict for a little more glory.

“If we cannot control the volatile tides of change, we can learn to build better boats.” – Zolli, Healy

Your life is filled with so many opportunities to be resilient.

  • Resilience is being able to come back to work after you failed to make the big sale and your coworkers know it.
  • Resilience is working to break an addiction—getting back on the horse after you’ve fallen off—dozens of times.
  • It’s coming back to the dating game after your spouse dies because you believe it’s time for a new season.
  • It’s accepting the uncontrollable chaos of the world with the unwavering belief that you can bring order to one part of it, in some way.
  • Resilience is how we forgive our spouses for being jerks, distant, or cheaters. And we know that to be resilient, we have to choose the commitment we made to love another person even and especially when it’s most difficult.

To teach true resilience, we have to have been there, done that. We have to walk through the fire before we can help our friends make it, too.

“Hurting people can help people. Harness your hurt as a source of healing…The deeper the scar, the better the story. The bigger the mess, the stronger the message.” – Clayton King

You can do this. You can be resilient.

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What is one way you’ve seen someone be resilient?

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Read more about the book I’m writing: it explores facing overwhelming changes with resilience and making the most of every part of our lives—including the strongest resistance. Follow updates here.

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