Faith and Resilience

Faith and Resilience

In 2014, Julie K. Hersh, a writer for Psychology Today Online posted a question on Facebook asking readers to share their tactics for building resilience. Their top response was “faith.”

The response isn’t surprising. Faith links our present circumstances to our vision for the future. Hope is similar but wraps our present struggles in an image of better times. Both faith and hope are crucial elements of resilience, “the process of positive adaptation in the face of significant adversity.”

Resilient people have the capability to move ahead in the face of difficult circumstances.

In a blog titled “The Resilience of Faith,” author Jenni White states, “Faith can best be understood as the way in which an individual draws upon and enters into the life of God.”

Faith requires discipline of the emotions and the mind. Those of us who place our trust in the eternal, loving, just, omniscient, and all-powerful God of the Bible, place our faith in Someone who understands and knows our deepest sorrows, who is all-powerful and is for us. This faith gives us hope for a certain future and the strength to move forward in spite of our circumstances.

How Faith Builds Resilience

  • Faith gives us the vision to see beyond victimization.Faith gives us the heart to search for meaning in the messes of life.
  • Faith builds discipline, as we look beyond what is to what will be.
  • Faith is a tool against rumination.
  • Faith is the starting point of our relationship with God, the source of our faith.
  • Christians—those who accept by faith the gift that Jesus offers—gain access to the power of God.
  • The power of faith does not lie in faith itself, but in faith’s object. Christians place their faith in an all-powerful God. We trust His power and His strength to carry us beyond impossible circumstances.

The Source of Our Faith

Faith itself is purposeless if we place that faith in a limited, unloving, non-reasoning, or inconsistent object. Our source of faith must be placed in an intellect bigger than our own who is interested in our welfare and control any circumstance. This is the role of faith for Bible-believing Christians. They boldly move forward because they place their confidence in a personal God who loves them.

Building Organizational Resilience

The psychological health of organizations, just like individuals, hinges on the capacity to bounce back or recover from significant setbacks. Managers need to help their employees navigate layoffs, restructuring, budget cuts, institutional change, economic downturns, and challenging interpersonal dynamics.

So how can faith-based and non faith-based establishments help create resilience in their employees and create cultures of resilience within their establishments?

First, anticipate and acknowledge the reality of adversity. All organizations experience challenges and change. Anticipating and preparing for challenging situations reduces stress and creates a sense of preparedness and confidence. Stress and anxiety are expected responses. Create realistic strategies for addressing those factors.

Be personally involved. Employees need personal responses to stressful conditions. Educate yourself about the stress-producing effects of decisions, policies, the economy, administrative changes, and other elements. Who is the most vulnerable? What do they fear? How can you offer support? Personal communication and support builds resilience.

Share encouraging personal experiences. Draw from your personal experience and share positive stories. Ask others within your organization to share their experiences as well. Build a culture of positivity as you evaluate factors that contributed to past success. Create a culture of appreciation and celebrate staff successes.

Communicate Positively. Employees and staff are reassured when they feel they are kept within the communication loop. Keep the tone and outlook realistic, yet positive. Monitor employees’ attitudes and offer frequent encouragement. Create a culture of connectedness where everyone feels valued and included.

Reward and encourage positive problem-solving and service. Encourage your employees to think outside the box. Provide opportunities for creative problem-solving and organizational and community service. Encourage diverse opinions and perspectives. Develop mentoring programs.

Regularly assess organizational health. Good managers identify what factors can be controlled and what factors cannot be controlled. They focus on factors within their sphere of control. Good managers ask for help and communicate high standards for employee performance, accountability and commitment. Good managers challenge their employees and understand that organizational growth and resilience occurs only if people feel supported when they are required to meet challenges.

What about you? I’d love to hear from you!

What mechanisms are in place in your organization that help promote a culture of resilience and well-being?

How has faith helped you in building resilience?

Peace and Health,

Dr. Clem

How to Become an Everyday Hero

When we think about heroes, characters with super-powers or people who perform death-defying acts of courage typically spring to our minds. But USA Today recently reported that 20% of Americans have done heroic deeds. Professor Philip Zimbardo from Stanford University conducted a study that was supported by the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education. Using a national sample of 4,000 adults, Zimbardo’s team discovered that 20% of participants qualified as heroes.

How could this be true?

 These participants had

  • helped during a dangerous emergency,
  • taken a stand against injustice, or
  • sacrificed for a stranger.

Heroes are ordinary people,” Zimbardo states. “You become a hero by doing an extraordinary deed.”

Who Are the Heroes in Your Life?

We all face opportunities to step up, do the extraordinary, and become a hero to someone.

Sometimes those we hold dear fall short during times of need, and the people we expect to spark our hope shroud it in their own despair. Interestingly, Zimbardo’s study also revealed that someone is more likely to act in a heroic capacity if they have walked through personal trauma or have been involved in compassionate outreach.

The world longs for heroes, and we can see the evidence in top-running movies and televisions shows. Social psychologist Scott Allison of Richmond, Virginia puts it this way: “We love heroes because of what they offer us—hope for a better world.”

So how do we become an everyday hero? I suggest the following:

  1. Respect people and live peacefully with others. My mother always said, “Don’t underestimate anyone because you never know what tomorrow brings.”  Sometimes when we are happy, strong, and powerful, we are tempted to ignore the least among us. However, we never know where heroes will come from.
  2. Trust God to bring the right people and circumstances into your life at the right time. Proverbs 16:9 tells us “A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” God may send a hero to speak wisdom, to intervene on your behalf, or to stand beside you as an advocate.
  3. Manage your expectations of people. The people you believe will be your heroes may not be equipped to help you and may need help themselves.
  4. Acknowledge people who step up. Gratitude opens doors and fosters a hero’s heart. Heroes often place others first as a lifestyle.  
  5. Be a hero to someone else. This may be as simple as making a phone call, taking time to listen, checking on someone, answering a call, showing unexpected kindness, standing beside someone against injustice, helping to open closed doors, or promoting someone’s well being. Use your power and influence to make a difference.
  6. Stand beside ‘heroes in the making.’ Support the heroic efforts of others and encourage family, friends, and those in your circle of influence to join you. Model what it means to act as a hero and a person of integrity, honor, and positive influence, and consider mentoring others.

I thank God for everyday heroes—people who positively influenced not only my life but the lives of my friends and loved ones and in so doing made the world a better place. I salute you and dedicate this blog to you and to all everyday heroes.

Can you name someone who’s been an unlikely hero in your life? How did their action influence you? I’d love to hear your story.

Peace & Health!

Dr. Clem

Teaching Kids Resilience

by Dr. Clementine Msengi

Photo Credit: Unsplash, Japeth Mast

Growing up in Rwanda provided me with many experiences that encouraged
resilience. Our family lifestyle was simple. We were not surrounded by wealth or luxury. We were content with food, shelter, family, and clothing chosen for utility more than fashion. I learned early to value the needs of my family and community. I also learned to work hard to achieve my goals and that I could expect obstacles.

Based on my upbring, values, and experiences as an educator and a parent, I offer the following suggestions to parents who hope to raise resilient children. I also
welcome your insights and comments.

  1. Don’t give your kids everything they want. Children need to learn to solve their own problems and work toward goals. Do they want a new video game? Teach them to work and save for their goals.Problem solving is an important skill. Learning to problem solve collaboratively helps build resilience for thriving in school, work, and life. Working and saving money were not options for me while I was growing up. I learned responsibility  by doing chores that taught me how much effort it took to obtain what our family needed. These activities included working on our farm after school or spending the day with my father at his job.

Children certainly need to be given generous amounts of reassurance and comfort; but they should also be taught skills to deal with life challenges.

  1. Allow your children to take reasonable risks. My parents  wanted to keep
    me safe, so they instituted safety talks almost every day. But they also knew that sooner or later I would face significant obstacles in life, so I needed to learn to face fear. Resilience takes root and grows only as we overcome obstacles.

My parents allowed ageappropriate risks but also taught us the skills we needed to be successful and safe.

  1. Teach your children needed skills. Ask yourself, “What skills my child is going to need in order to thrive? What social skills will my child need? What safety and situational skills? What cultural skills that will help them navigate the world successfully?” Inventory what lies ahead for them and create an action plan for equipping them.
  2. Let your kids make mistakes. Failure is one of life’s greatest teachers. A child who believes they must always be best, first, or a winner is not equipped to live in the real world. Let your children learn that failing is not the end of the world and is a starting point for their next effort.

Children must be allowed to take responsibility for the consequences of their actions. If they didn’t study, they need to be allowed to fail. It’s important to lovingly teach them that actions have consequences, both positive and negatives.

  1. Teach your kids to be problem-solvers. Help them figure out how to face their fears, confront their problems, and resolve their social issues. Teach them how to handle their problems on their own (within reason, of course) and discover possible, positive solutions.
  2. Don’t have an answer for everything. Don’t be afraid to tell your children you don’t know. Encourage them to research to find answers. It’s important for them to learn that every situation does not have a black-and-white answer, and life sometimes is uncertain.

If they express anxiety about a possible scenario, instead of providing a yes-or-no answer, encourage them to think about how they will handle the situation and the stress. Teach them to evaluate circumstances from the other person’s point of view. This teaches them to think proactively about difficult situations.

The best way to teach resilience is to model it in the way you approach life. Admit your mistakes. Don’t be afraid to take risks and fail. View failure as a learning experience. Adapt to what may lie ahead by learning new skills. And let your kids see you as a problem solver who is not intimidated by the obstacles that will always lie ahead.

I’d love to hear your comments, experiences, and positive suggestions for other readers.
–Dr. Clem

Note:  The statements and opinions in this blog are those of Dr. Clementine Msengi. They do not represent her employer or other personal/professional affiliates.