Resilience- A Jewish Guide to Facing Adversity, Fostering Strength, and Living Your Best Life by Leslie M. Gutman, PhD
“Resilience, which involves utilizing our strengths in order to effectively cope with and learn from life’s challenges, may…be considered one of our most important tasks…We are not born resilient, we are made resilient…Resilience is an active practice that we engage in every day through the choices we make for ourselves and through our relationships with others.”
Dr. Gutman’s book is a primer on facing everyday challenges, large and small, using our intellect, our emotions, and our Torah knowledge to successfully “[bounce] forward into a better version of ourselves” rather than succumbing to our setbacks. Her pages include suggestions and exercises on handling trauma such as grief and sadness; her reference to Martin Seligman’s “positive psychology” implores us to view a closed door as brimming with potential as we unlock a new door. She delineates some of the major challenges facing us today- divorce, physical and mental illness, family and/or child mistreatment. She urges us to avoid the words “can’t” and “don’t” when we evaluate our capabilities; she notes that being kind to ourselves is “an essential part of resilience”; she includes a “gratitude exercise” for rising in the morning and before retiring at night. In her words, “Reflect on the miraculous nature of every moment of life. What we experience at every second is nothing short of a miracle.”
Amazing as it sounds, my last sentence was written as the sun brightly emerged from behind a cloud, miraculously beaming light and warmth into my room. (Good timing!) I’m particularly excited that it’s spring- a (very) few bushes have teensy green buds (note to those in warmer climates: no gloating please!), the last of the dirty snow piles have melted, my husband can now grill on the deck without danger of frostbite. Life is good! Resilience has certainly kicked in these past two virus-laden years, and books I’ve read and reviewed in the past (“Who By Fire” is just one example) are beaming, like that sunshine, with people who demonstrated resilience during incredibly difficult circumstances. My father used to promote living by the “three E’s: Energy, Excitement and Enthusiasm.” That fifth letter of the alphabet, combined with his innate sense of humor, imbued resilience in my dad during illness and has taught me to try and face each day with gratitude and optimism- not always easy for sure.
Dr. Gutman emphasizes that gratitude and optimism in the chapters of her book. She stresses the importance of community to our well-being, the importance of reconnecting with nature and its gifts (author’s note: cannot wait to have my toes in the sand walking along the beach!), the ability to feel empowered to “live your best life possible.” May we all have the resilience we need to enjoy each day in Hashem’s beautiful world.
Randy Rubinstein lives in Sharon, Massachusetts