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Spirituality of Resilience

Resilience is our ability to bounce back from adversity, stress, trauma or challenges in life. How bouncy are we?  And what does spirituality have to do with bounciness? And why are some people more bouncy than others?

We all know people who seem to bounce back amazingly well from the knocks of life. They don’t seem to ignore the reality of the tough times, nor do they resorted to copious amounts of drinking. We know getting through has been a process for them and hasn’t exactly been easy, but they’ve come through and are stronger, more compassionate people now.

And then there are those we know who don’t do nearly as well. They ignore or deny the reality of a situation, refuse to talk about it to anyone, become depressed, or negative, or a victim.  They don’t cope, they don’t process, and they don’t move forward.

I think we all want to be in that first group of people. The bouncy ones. Where does that kind of resilience come from? From the reading and research I’ve done, I’ve narrowed the many contributing characteristics of resilience down to these five:

  • No numbing allowed
  • Leaning in
  • Critical awareness
  • Support staff – connections, people we’re willing to ask for help or just to listen
  • Maintaining a sense of meaning and purpose

As for spirituality, author and researcher, Brene’ Brown, has discovered in her research that “the very foundation of the… things that made [people] bouncy was their spirituality.” Spirituality (not religion) means we maintain a sense of connection to something greater than ourselves, it gives us the strength to get through hard times, to strive to understand ourselves more fully, to develop deep connections with others, and to feel that our lives have a greater meaning and purpose.


It is typical for all of us to try to numb the painful emotions and situations. Common numbing techniques include drinking, drugs, work, exercise, busyness, television, social media, sleeping, shopping, comfort eating, blaming others, avoidance, denial, and running away.

Brown said that after years of research, she’s discovered that everyone numbs and takes the edge off.  The question is, does the numbing behavior get in the way of our authenticity, stop us from being emotionally honest, keep us from feeling connected, or help us hide or escape from the reality of our lives? If so, then it’s become an unhealthy, unhelpful behavior.

There are two main issues associated with numbing behavior. One, we can’t just numb the bad feelings, we end up numbing everything. Just feeling less sadness does not mean you feel more joy.

And second, we really can’t escape in the long run. Whatever we're avoiding will come back to haunt us. Eventually to live a healthy, fulfilling life, one has to LEAN INTO it, face it and deal with it.


Do you remember what it feels like to walk directly into a strong wind? You  need to lean forward and push into that wind to move forward. Dealing with difficult times is the same way. We must actively meet that force head on, pushing into it and working through it. It's hardly ever easy, and never pleasant or fun, but that's life.


The whole process takes personal critical awareness – to know when we’re avoiding and numbing, to choose to lean into it instead, to seek the difference between reality and illusion, to look at the bigger picture, and eventually to learn and grow from what has happened.

Robert Wicks, author of Spiritual Resilience, wrote that he could remember coming home one day from seeing patients in his private psychology practice, and his wife asked how his day was. He almost responded with a meaningless “fine.” But he was overcome with such a deep sense of sadness that he said “Terrible.” “Why? What happened?” she asked.

He sat down in the kitchen without even taking off his raincoat and, as he’d taught others, began to review the day to see what had happened, what he’d blown out of proportion, what negative belief he had allowed to get ahold of him. Finally, he recognized it wasn’t one specific event, it was an accumulation of the past few weeks. Somehow, without realizing it, he’d begun to absorb other people’s anxieties, sadness, helplessness, and hopelessness. He was feeling slowly defeated by it all. Stopping to analyze the situation and being able to identify what was going was the first step in feeling better.

Critical awareness allows us the ability to take a step back and gain a little perspective on the situation and our emotions. Hopefully, looking within will bring us to a deeper understanding of who we are and how to handle the situation. Over time, with continued critical awareness, we'll be able to learn and grow from the challenges in our lives. 


Another key of resilience is having healthy connections with people. One article I read suggested that four kinds of people are necessary for our greatest resilience. First, we will have cheerleaders, those who support us and stand by us no matter what. Second, are the prophets, the ones we go to when we want an honest (if not necessarily pleasant) assessment of our situation. Our harrassers will help us keep perspective by teasing and harassing us into seeing the truth of a situation. And, finally, our guides are the deep listeners who help us to find the deeper truths within ourselves.


Joan Borysenko, in her book, It's Not the End of the World, maintains that “Resilient people don’t wait passively for the future to happen to them – they become the future by consciously creating it.”  To do this, she suggests writing your own Vision Statement. 

A vision statement is teh ideal life you want to manifest. It's the target you're taking aim at - the focus of your intention. Make sure your vision is detailed and covers all the important aspects of life, including love, work, purpose and meaning, emotions and feelings, spirituality, and finances.

Here are some questions to ponder to help you write this:

  • At the end of your life, when you look back what will mean the most to you?
  • What do you want your legacy to be?
  • What do you enjoy doing most? What are your strengths and talents?
  • What are the weaknesses or resistances that get in your way?
  • How do you want your loved ones - children, parents, and friends - to think of you?
  • Do you feel you have a purpose to fulfill in this lifetime?
  • What kind of spiritual life would you like to cultivate?

​Above all, it's important that we maintain and cultivate our relationship with the Divine. We are much more resilient when we know that we are loved to the very core of our being, that we are not alone, and that a connection with God brings us strength, comfort, courage and hope.

Love & Light!