Awkward and Awesome

As someone who speaks and writes about resilience, I’m often asked two key questions: “What is resilience?” and “How can someone become more resilient?”

Both of these questions are seeking to find out the same thing, “is resilience relevant to me?” The answer is simple and profound, resilience is the single biggest determinant in your success or failure.

The ability to get back up when we’ve fallen down is your greatest asset in life. With it, you will do more, love more, earn more, and live more. Without it, you will shrink from challenge and opportunity and miss out on much of life. Your ability to succeed the first time means nothing compared to your ability to persist when you screw up.

Last week I had to do something that I probably could not have done last year. I was listening to one of my favourite podcasts and was inspired to correct a long-forgotten mistake. Convicted after hearing the host of the show talk about asking for forgiveness from his friend who he had wronged, I realized I had to do the same thing with a friend of mine.

For years this friend had been very good to me. He supported me when I was building my career, and gave me much needed advice. However because of some personality style differences, and my insecurity, I realized last week that I had not been a good friend in return. I had to admit that I had spoken badly about this person behind his back, and done other things that went against my values. I had not been the friend I would want someone to be to me. There was only one thing to do, ask for forgiveness.

I don’t know about you, but for me, it’s always hard to face someone I have wronged and ask for forgiveness. I hate confrontation, so it’s much easier for me to pretend like everything is fine and just not discuss the issue. In this case, there was a chance my friend didn’t even know about what I had done. Maybe it was better not to bring it up. That would certainly be more convenient. I knew though that in this case, avoiding it wasn’t going to fix anything. I took action.

It took an hour to write, edit and re-write the email. I probably just should have called, but again, I hate confrontation so email was easier. At least if he read my email and wanted nothing to do with me, I didn’t have to hear him say it out loud.

I clicked “Send” and held my breath. I’m not sure if there is a time in our lives when we are more vulnerable than the time between asking for forgiveness and the response from the person we apologize to. I anxiously awaited the response.

Later that day my email notification sounded. My friend’s name was there. What did he say? I wanted desperately to know, but I was also terrified to find out. Would he accept my apology or would he be angry? Would he forgive me, or would he never speak to me again?

I opened the email and read: “You have no idea how much I needed this today”. Sigh… relief. My friend, with true grace, had kindly accepted my apology.

Resilience requires that we get back up when we fall. You will fall. We all do. It’s just part of being human. The question is not, “will you fail?” The question is, “how will you react when you fail?” I hope you’ll be inspired to get back up, admit your mistake and move forward.

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