Today, I want to talk with about Spiritual Resilience. This term came up in my reading for one of my classes at Starr King School for the Ministry.
The term Spiritual can be defined as “relating to or affecting the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things, and secondly as relating to religion or religious belief.
The term Resilience can be defined as the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; a sense of toughness.
When you combine the two terms, you get Spiritual Resilience, which was defined in my class readings as a cluster of positive beliefs, values and habits of mind that can be learned, cultivated and reinforced, and that affect your spirit and your soul.
A positive belief pushes your mind to see the beneficial opportunity in every experience – positive or negative; it focuses your mind on opportunities, the bigger picture, patience, resilience and achieving rather than defeat, negativity, or stress. The word belief means that you hold a trust, faith or confidence in someone or something.
Spiritual resilience is associated with positive evaluations of yourself – the overall sense that you are a good person, and that you’re living a good life. Now you might have a stronger sense of spiritual resilience when you’re facing challenges – that’s when our reserves of strength rise and come to the forefront.
Spiritual resilience can be learned and developed – we’re not necessarily born with it. Our beliefs, values and habits of mind must be learned, cultivated and reinforced. Some refer to spiritual resilience as a type of muscle that must be exercised and strengthened. I know sometimes I get tired, and that’s when the circumstances I’m living with or experiencing can seem to weigh on me more than the “usual”.
That’s when I need to turn to one of my Personal Spiritual Trainers – listen now to this reading, paraphrased from Rev. Nathan C. Walker:
When you come to me, come not with the expectation to have some passive clergy person /seminarian coddle you into complacency…
No. Come to me as your PST––your personal spiritual trainer.
I’m serious. I want to see you move.
I want to see you root yourself in a community built on moral complexity and to hold one another to the ethic of intellectual honesty.
I want to see you move beyond the religious hang-ups of your broken past and use your regenerative and resilient spirit to seize the day.
I want to see you flex your moral muscles.
I want to see you exercise spiritual practices to the point of training your mind and body and spirit to collaborate as a single, integrated, and dynamic entity.
I want to hear you articulate your beliefs. I want to hear you articulate your faith to the point of having some moral relevance.
I want to know that you are engaged in the moral issues of our time.
I want to know what makes you afraid.
I want to know if you are cultivating your doubts and your questions, so that when you do take a stand, we can all trust your authenticity.
I want to know the intricacies of how you are treating other people.
Have you learned new ways to better your relationships?
If so, share them.
I want to know if you have learned to like yourself.
Have you learned to love yourself?
I want to know if you feel alive.
I want to know if you feel like you belong, that you feel like you matter, because to me, you do.
You do. Because you are my personal spiritual trainers.
Spiritual resilience is associated with positive evaluations of one’s self, a sense of spiritual growth and love, and beliefs in purposeful and meaningful life.
Spiritual resilience can be built on 3 important factors:
- An individual’s sense of meaning, personal integrity and purpose – your own personal mission & discovery process where you find and describe your way of being and what’s important to you. Those things you’re willing to work for, become and be.
- Your inspirations, values and the fuel to be good, do good and serve others. We are not born to be argumentative, angry and prickly ALL THE TIME.
We are fortunate to be inspired by what we see and experience in our world, the people and creatures we spend time with, and to employ what we learn throughout our lives to do and be good.
This is more than just volunteering – though that is a worthy pursuit – it’s about sharing who we are and what we know with family, friends, acquaintances and sometimes even our challengers.
- Your intention and commitment to feeling and promoting a deep enjoyment of life and respect for life.
Enjoying life and the process of spiritual growth and development is supported by the sources mentioned in our faith, including direct experience of transcending mystery and wonder that moves us toward a renewal of our spirit and an openness to wisdom from the world’s religions, humanist teachings that encourage the guidance of reason and the results of science, and encouragement to be in harmony with the rhythms of nature.
Our 7th UU principle covenants to affirm and promote respect for the interdependent web of all existence – important reinforcement of the second part of that factor.
When you intentionally cultivate a set of positive and empowering principles and beliefs, then put those principles and beliefs into action, you can experience restoration in your life – optimistic thinking, belief / faith that you’ll be alright and move forward positively in life – and then follow those principles and beliefs up with the action of self-empowerment.
When you understand that you have the power to overcome difficulties and are confident in that power, you become stronger. Your coping skills will be stronger, and your ability to bounce back from challenges will be stronger as well.
Just “making it through” is not enough – I want more than that for you!
Life indeed has peaks and valleys and it’s always changing – accepting this helps you to be more motivated to be curious about the lesson of the moment – what is the change trying to teach you or bring your attention to - and to avoid getting stuck in the idea of the change itself.
Change isn’t always easy – but as long as you’re alive and breathing, you have the opportunity to grow and adapt. Spiritual Resilience is no different – you can identify your spiritual side, notice your current level of resilience and where it can be strengthened, learn new concepts and use them to grow through your challenges.
You have the freedom to choose your reactions - practicing love, kindness, and compassion for ourselves and others builds our confidence, help us create meaningful, caring relationships, increases individual and community resilience and well-being, promotes human rights, and increases physical and mental health – not only for us as individuals, but for others as well.
Now, since we are perfectly imperfect human beings, sometimes we’re going to slip – it’s not possible to be perfect all the time. We all make mistakes – I’m not even going to talk about all the mistakes I’ve made, or we’ll be here until Summertime! The toughest part? Admitting that we make (or have made or continue to make) mistakes. Simply admitting that increases our resilience, and then we must employ our spiritual resources to help us not be so hard on ourselves - the admission of a mistake shouldn’t make us hard and unyielding, nor should it damage our self-esteem and self-confidence.
Letting go is another important factor in Spiritual Resilience. Having the strength of spirit and character to apologize when we need to - employing humility and courage and letting go of our need to be RIGHT all the time - will strengthen all of the relationships in our lives. Good relationships aren’t good because they are always sunshine and rainbows – they are good because they push us to be better than the day before, help us learn about ourselves, and about our impact on others.
Letting go of resentment is another important step in building Spiritual Resilience. It’s very hard to move forward when you’ve got anger or hurt or other challenging emotions weighing on your shoulders, your mind and your heart. You do not have to carry those heavy burdens anymore – PUT THEM DOWN – hear me on this.
You can let go and forgive – tap into your personal spiritual resilience, and while it may require some time and effort, it can be done.
Another important factor in your Spiritual Resilience is to strengthen your relationship with yourself. Take care of your foundation – your body, your brain and your environment. If it isn’t serving you, find a way to fix it, or get rid of it. Don’t keep stressful experience, things or memories around too long – deal with them and let them go.
Pay attention to your self-talk – if there’s a negative soundtrack playing in your head, it’s time to replace that soundtrack with positive affirmations and elements of a positive personal practice that helps you to be more resilient and recognize all your strengths and accomplishments.
Take action in your life and empower yourself – when you take a look at your strengths and accomplishment, write them down so that you’ll have them in front of you. Use them on a daily basis to remind yourself of the power you have within.
Use your values as a lighthouse – let them help propel you forward and help you build resilience as you continue your journey. Set goals with your values and dreams in mind, and set short-, medium- and long-term goals that resonate with you and ring true in your heart and your soul.
You have, or have access to, all the tools you need to meet any challenges that may come your way. Remind yourself that you are resilient and resourceful, and that you have – or can find - what you need.
Use the resources you have at hand – take note of what inspires you, what brings you peace, what makes you smile, and what makes you sigh with contentment. Build those experiences intentionally into your life and make time for them…make time for YOU.
You have the courage and strength and yes, Spiritual Resilience to make the decisions that need to be made, and to overcome challenging situations. Even if the outcome is one that you’re less than pleased with, you still made it through, learned the lesson, and live to fight another day.
Be confident that you can meet any challenge that arises, and know in your heart that you are resilient, resourceful, courageous and strong. Act as if until the feeling catches up with your knowledge and certainty.
Amen. Blessed Be. Ashe.