Building Resilience One Asset at a Time

Posted: January 7, 2016 in Uncategorized

As a part of a morning message I spoke about the whole area of resilience research. That is becoming a critical area of inquiry in the military right now as those who train and care for personnel ask what can be done to instill greater mental and emotional resilience. The recent crisis in veteran mental health begs the question.

The first moves toward moving away from only identifying pathology to instead mapping assets began in earnest through education, recovery programs, social work, and mental and community health. Friend Heather Harlan, on staff at Phoenix in Columbia, reminded me that the Search Institute began identifying assets for likely success beginning in 1990.  The greater the number of assets the more likely success. Building a compilation of assets in youth – whether at risk or not – increases their resiliency.

Examples of these many necessary assets include such markers as social support, community involvement, and the presence of mentors. Those external assets are then matched with internal ones – taking responsibility, following through, the art of collaboration.

In spiritual formation resilience is developed through engagement with a faith/theology/worldview/philosophy/value system that provides ultimate meaning, actual practice of that faith, and sharing all that in a communal setting. The research bears out that beliefs that are accompanied by actual practices provide more resilience than without practice. And the communal dimension adds even more resilience. In other words, a vital faith that is practiced and practiced in community fosters more internal resilience than one that does not do or have those things. There is a difference in the resilience – statistically speaking – between one who is spiritual without communal form (spiritual but not religious) and one who is both (spiritual and religious). “Religious” connotes a communal sharing of symbols and narratives, tradition, practices, rituals, common life and mission together.

One terrible event takes place. Two people respond to it very differently: one rebounds, bounces back and becomes stronger for it. The other is permanently shattered. What is the difference? The degree of resilience. What makes for that resilience? Research has already identified the markers. Faith and its practice are high on the list.


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