Sometimes I think we confuse “resilient” and “survival” at times.
The use of “resilient” may be especially applied when speaking about children (and others) in difficult situations.
I have often heard stated, “Well, you know, children are resilient.”
I have also heard “resilience” applied to abuse survivors, individuals who survive natural disasters, and so on.
I am not taking anything away from these individuals, or the positive sentiments implied by the use of the word “resilient”.
However, one definitions I found for “resilience” captured my concern about usage of this word.
It defined resilience as the “capability of a strained body to recover its size and shape after deformation…”
See, this is what I think we miss when we use the word “resilience”. To be truly resilient, based on the above definition, the body (or Being) RECOVERS its size and shape.
I have not found this to be true in those I witness suffering abuse or other traumas.
Certainly, individuals are capable of moving through these experiences.
However, the original state of the person is NOT RECOVERED, thus based on the definition I provided above, “resilience” can not be applied to describe these individuals.
The body (or Being) of the person does not return to its size and shape- it has been forever modified by the experience.
So, when I hear people speak about children suffering or others who are supposedly “resilient”, I often transpose their sentiments in my mind and use the word “surviving” in place of “resilient”.
The term “surviving’ conjures up an entire different emotional sense and awareness.
We can no longer absolve ourselves of our collective responsibility for those suffering, by saying “Well, they are resilient” (meaning: We needn’t worry too much. Those who we label as “resilient” will return to their original size and shape, as good as new, once this is all over.)
We should be saying instead, “Well, they are surviving”.
And with the word “surviving” we begin to capture the struggles, and perhaps, more importantly, give up the ideas that all will be “fine”, because “resilient” objects, no matter what they suffer, are expected to return to their original size and shape.