Practicing Resilience

I have many interactions with individuals and groups each and every day. In my role as Bishop, sometimes I’m sharing with others in very happy occasions, while at other times, the interactions are much more challenging. The fundamental question that this poses for me, is how do we respond when our hopes, dreams and aspirations do not come to fruition as we had planned or expected.

An early leadership mentor suggested to me that one of the most important skills you must learn is how to walk with people after you have had to tell them no. Differing opinions, disagreements and even significant disappointments are critical moments, not only for leaders, but for all of us. These are moments of resilience.

Resilience is a topic of interest in our schools and in the child development world. More and more professionals who work with young people are finding that many of them lack the capacity to deal with a wide range of challenges. Recognizing their own grit eludes them in this quick fix culture, when social expectations value portraying that all is okay, even when it is desperately not.

I could not be more supportive of intentional work towards obtaining good healthy skills that build resilience. If you Google resilience here is some information you will find:

”Resilience is that ineffable quality that allows some people to be knocked down by life and come back stronger than ever. Rather than letting failure overcome them and drain their resolve, they find a way to rise from the ashes. Psychologists have identified some of the factors that make someone resilient, among them a positive attitude, optimism, the ability to regulate emotions, and the ability to see failure as a form of helpful feedback. Even after misfortune, resilient people are blessed with such an outlook that they are able to change course and soldier on” (Psychology Today)

“Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress — such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems or workplace and financial stressors. It means “bouncing back” from difficult experiences” (American Psychological Association).

For those of us who have chosen to follow in the Way of Jesus, resilience is part of our calling. With even a cursory read of the life of Jesus, you can see the challenges that he endured. And, more importantly, you witness his resilience in response to very challenging situations. Jesus was clear about the cross that he would bear.  Those of us who choose to follow him know that this way comes with its own cross that we must bear. Yet fundamental to our faith is the belief that we are Easter people. The resurrection faith we proclaim, and aspire to live into is built on hopeful, life-giving resilience.

Alleluia! Christ is risen!

1 thought on “Practicing Resilience”

  1. Cara P Knittel

    I’m not sure quite what to think about your blog about resilience. It is true that, for instance, if a tree is not resilient, it will get blown over by a good wind, and even a large tree can get pulled out by the roots. But if a young tree is not held upright, it will get bent by those same winds so that it can no longer stand straight. So yes, we need to be resilient, but are there situations in which resilience is not enough? When we somehow need to stand tall with the support of others and fight back? When resilience does not become mere acceptance of the crosses we are to bear?

    How are we to be resilient in the face of, say, the current political situation, when “our hopes, dreams and aspirations do not seem to be coming to fruition as we had planned or expected?” For instance, what sort of resilience is to be shown when health care seems to be getting more expensive for those who need it most; when bills are being passed that seem to take away the rights of LGBTQ people; and when it seems as if anyone who is on the opposite side of the fence from Trump, or is questioning his activities, is being fired? How are those in Congress who disagree supposed to be resilient when each side seems to be so certain they are right?

    Or, how are we to be resilient when it comes to the church universal? For instance, can we be accommodating when some in a parish or mission want a high church liturgy but others want a low church liturgy? How can we be resilient when beliefs vary from those who insist on absolute orthodoxy to those whose beliefs may be more heterodox? Is the orthodox position that of an unbending tree?

    Too many questions, I’m sure, but so be it.

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