A rubber ducky bobbing back to the surface, an irrepressible grin plastered on its face.
An 8-year-old Labrador Retriever that still hasn't learned when enough is enough.
A young woman who stays emotionally whole in spite of being abused at home and in foster care.
Nelson Mandela seeking peace with his captors after spending 27 years in prison.
Examples of resilience? Yes.
Equivalent? Not quite.
The dictionary defines resilience as
1. the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties and
2. the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape.
Rubber ducks fit those definitions. They’re designed to stand up to babies who delight in shoving them underwater and watching them pop up into the air to land on their little flat bottoms. Rubber ducks may be cute, but they don’t learn and they don’t change.
Spiritual resilience asks more. Spiritually resilient people like Nelson Mandela or a family abuse survivor learn from their underwater moments and emerge more balanced, more persistent and wiser than before. They feel their pain and transform it. We feel the strength of their brave hearts and want to become more like them - at least for a little while.
We instinctively recognize spiritual resilience when we see it, even if we can’t name it. Spiritually resilient individuals can be found all over the world, though some circumstances seem to produce them more readily. Our times cry out for people who are courageous, generous, hopeful and kind. Learning the skills of spiritual resilience can help us become that - and bring us greater joy along the way
In this blog I’ll explore spiritual resilience with you: what it is and how we can develop our capacity for it. We’ll see what we can learn from psychology, neuroscience and our own Christian tradition. Our project will center on developing the key spiritual emotions of gratitude, awe, hope, joy, trust, love and compassion.
We can all be the better for it.
Photo credit: Dennis Hill, Flickr