Resilience is generally understood as the capacity to bounce or spring back from pressure. The Revd Dr Anne Holmes explores what helps us to be resilient in an ever-changing world.
Here are a few hints for you to consider:
First, an essential quality of resilience is the capacity to face reality. Over-optimism and naivety can be a handicap in stressful situations. Resilient people have a down-to-earth view of the need for survival. Those who are in denial put themselves at risk. Jesus modelled this when sending off the disciples: “See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10:16).
Second is the importance of a sense of purpose or meaning. This might seem obvious for Christians, but it depends on the type of faith we have. If it relies on God seeming to answer all our requests, then disappointment in God’s apparent lack of response can weaken a person’s faith. The answer is to develop a more open-minded approach to what God might be saying to us. Viktor Frankl’s experience of imagining his wife’s image during the Holocaust led him to discover: “The truth – that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire” (from Man’s Search for Meaning). This helped him to survive and inspired his later work on the human search for meaning. For Christians our supreme purpose and meaning is the dual commandment to love God and love our neighbour as ourselves.
Third is the importance of a flexible imagination and capacity to be ingenious about finding solutions to problems as they present themselves. For example, during the lockdown periods of the recent pandemic, clergy and others became very skilled at producing online services, streaming them from church or even their own homes. Since then, it has been routine in many churches for an in-person main service to be streamed simultaneously. This hybrid practice has helped many who are still anxious about attending social gatherings, including worship.
Fourth, the regular practice of creative repair can help to resource us as a we go along. While this usually involves engagement with the creative arts, other recreational pursuits such as exercise, gardening and cooking can also be restorative. It is important for each person to notice what drains them and what restores them. Given the demands of ministry, it is even more important that Christians identify pastimes that resource rather than drain them and see them as necessary self-care. Such pastimes should be in the diary and be part of our regular spiritual disciplines.
Fifth, in a fast-changing world, it is vital to review current practice regularly. Just because you did do something doesn’t mean that you have to go on doing it. Likewise, just because you can do something doesn’t mean that you need to do it.
Resilience must be worked at. Our emotional and psychological energy needs to be replaced intentionally and routinely.
Words: The Revd Dr Anne Holmes, psychotherapist and Associate Priest at St Giles’ and St Margaret’s, Oxford.
What nourishes you? Can you schedule that into your week ahead?