By Father Justin Mathews
Executive Director, Reconciliation Services
“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.” – 2 Cor. 4:8-9
Deborah could have been crushed by the weight of trauma that she experienced at a young age. When she was 12, her mother was frequently absent from the home, and she found herself taking care of her younger siblings. “I cooked, cleaned house, washed their clothes and took them to the bus stop every day.”
When Deborah turned 14, she was raped by a family member, became pregnant and gave birth to twins who died five months later. “I eventually drifted to the streets and started using alcohol and other drugs,” she continues. “When I was high, I didn’t have to think about anything or anyone.”
Deborah started coming to Reconciliation Services (RS) for help getting her ID card, and for meals. “The staff didn’t judge me,” she says. “I felt encouraged and I felt like I was somebody.” She soon joined the RS REVEAL trauma therapy program where she received even more encouragement and learned about healthy relationships.
What Deborah was missing for most of her life was not resilience, but healthy relationships that would enable her to reveal her resilience and thrive.
Resilience is revealed through challenges and healthy relationships. At Reconciliation Services, we think of resilience as hidden strength within us all, waiting to be revealed through healthy relationships. Resilience is not something one possesses or doesn’t. It is the measure of a moment of souls in motion, reacting to stress and strain, friction and noise, trauma and tragedy. Having just one close, healthy relationship in your life may have more to do with revealing resilience and thriving in spite of adversity than any other factor.
Deborah’s survival skills, her navigation of complex social welfare systems to secure the most primitive of human needs every day, is a manifestation of her hidden strength. But this strength only became clear to her and was able to be leveraged to get ahead through healthy relationships like those Deborah made in the RS REVEAL program.
Trauma always impacts more than the one suffering. The resilience needed to survive can be found inside any of us through the co-suffering love in healthy relationships.
Father Justin Mathews is the executive director of Reconciliation Services.