Photo Information

Chaplain's Corner

Photo by Courtesy

Resilience for All

11 Jun 2021 | Lt. Michael Bowen Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune

Much has been said recently of resilience, the all-important ability to function normally after a disruptive event. Resilience is crucial for employees of the military, hospitals, fire departments and police departments, who are regularly exposed to potentially destabilizing situations. Indeed, the last 12 months have taught us that resilience through the difficulties of life is important for everyone, everywhere.

Martha Kent, in The Resilience Handbook (2014), explains that resilience is composed of three elements—sustainability, recovery and growth: “Resilience is a sustained adaptive effort that prevails despite challenge, as a bouncing back and recovery from a challenge, and a process of learning and growth that expands understanding, new knowledge, new skills (xii).” Sustainability is the ability to stay grounded through chronic, low-level challenging circumstances. Recovery is the ability to quickly return to equilibrium after an isolated disruptive event or trauma. Growth is the idea that suffering and trauma, both acute and chronic, can lead to positive changes. Indeed, only through struggling with difficult challenges can individuals experience growth.

As we consider the last 12 months, we have no trouble itemizing the challenges that made life difficult four ourselves and our loved ones. To say that COVID-19 has been disruptive is an understatement. Yet, I hope this resilience pop-quiz has taught us something about our toughness as individuals and as a community.

How resilient have you proven to be? Consider the three elements of resilience—sustainability, recovery and growth. Sustainability refers to chronic disruption, so we might consider the constant weight of COVID restrictions to be a test of our sustainability over the last year. When travel was curtailed, when masks were mandated, when events were canceled and life became regularly inconvenient, how did you fare?

The second element of resilience, recovery, is our ability to bounce back from trauma. In the last year, we saw riots, marches, political infighting, and as a nation lost a half-billion lives to COVID-19 and related complications. When acute, disorienting trauma struck your home, how did you handle it?

Today, we hesitantly celebrate small victories indicating life may be returning to “normal.” There’s reason to believe we have almost made it to the other side of the pandemic. So perhaps the most important resilience element for us to consider is the third: Growth. Part of resilience is the ability to make meaning of what has happened to us. This doesn’t mean we try to spin the idea that a traumatic event was “good.” We can’t say that abuse, neglect, pandemics and the like are “good” events. Making meaning of disruptive events, however, means that we have adapted, grown, learned, obtained new, truer knowledge than we had before, and the new truth we live in is fundamentally better than the one we lived in before.

So, are you living in a better truth now than you were last April? Are you more aware? More human? More authentic? Do you have a better understanding of yourself, your community, your God? If so, you are on your way to resilience.

The Chaplain’s Corner covers everything faith related. Facts not attributed are purely the opinion of the writer.