When I think of the word “resilient”, I think of one thing: growing pains. But not all pain leads to growth. We must know how to let our struggles strengthen us. But let’s be honest, it’s hard to see any growth when we’re in pain.
Oftentimes I find myself looking ahead. Looking ahead to where I want to be, who I want to be, and what I want to accomplish. This forward thinking gives me motivation and direction, but sometimes I forget to stop and see the growth I’ve already made.
We often think of trials as making us tougher. And yes, this is true. I believe trials are seeds of renewal that deepen our roots. Like trees, we become grounded within. But could it be that the real strength we gain through trials is that it can teach us to step back into quiet stillness?
I’ve thought a lot about what it means to be strong. In some ways, having strength is paradoxical. Yes, strength is forged when we reach our breaking point but choose to keep going. It’s the twelfth rep at the gym when our muscles are giving out. But could it be that even more than having power-it-out strength, our greatest strength is quiet?
Strength can be both fragile and strong. It can come in the form of great fear being overcome by even greater courage. This is why many of the greatest stories of strength come from the smallest people. Our strength comes in the form of our soft gentleness, kindness, tenderness, and ability to see, understand and stay with the suffering of another. This is one of the beautiful things we learn through our own experience of pain. I see myself in your pain, and you are not alone.
My mental health has been a trial my whole life. It’s impacted me in every area: my jobs, school, relationships, my ability to sleep, eat, and even take a deep breath when I feel my stomach burning inside and my throat clenching. It’s easy to get discouraged when I feel held captive by my anxiety, despite tirelessly trying to overcome it.
One of my favorite lyrics is by songwriter Audrey Assad. In the first verse of her song “Lament” she sings, “Why is it easy to work but hard to rest sometimes?” Why is it so much harder to step back, rest and reflect than it is to force, fight through, and try harder? My natural response in moments of anxiety (and in general) is always to grit it out and push further–creating even more tension and resistance–rather than stepping back and releasing the internal clench.
I remember one of the lessons my Tae Kwon Do instructor gave us in class. Although he was referring to a sparring match, I think it’s a transferrable life lesson. “Don’t work harder,” he’d say, “work smarter.” I intellectually understood the concept of this, but the internal application was not something I totally got.
There is an art to learning how to face trials and grow from our struggles and I believe it has everything to do with stepping back and “working smarter.” Sometimes it takes more work to work less. To just be. To find stillness and rest there. When we step back, we can listen. This is where the growth happens.
One of the main reasons music has impacted me so much is because of the meditative state it brings me to. It’s one of the few things that, without my pushing or forcing, can take me into the present moment. Although my whizzing mind makes finding inner stillness harder, it also makes those moments of serenity all the sweeter. When I sit down to the piano, I touch on an inner, sacred stillness.
There is a way to making our growing pains a little less painful. Rather than trying to push, push, push (which makes everything worse), and figure everything out, what about taking that step back, taking a breath, and regaining strength through stillness? This is how pain renews us. This is how struggle–which is inevitable–leads to growth. Every blooming flower needs rain. So do we. Turning our “wounds to wisdom” is the art of resilience and it starts with silence.
My anxiety still impacts me everyday. I’ll always be a work in progress. These moments of beautiful brokenness continue to remind me that I’m only human and that’s all I need to be. I’m learning to approach difficulty through silence and stillness, which is the quiet strength that grounds me deeply.
Resilience. Perhaps it doesn’t just mean “growing pains.” Perhaps it’s another word for “renewal” and “growing peace.” Silence. Stillness. Strength.