Resilience and Agelessness

Sep 05 2017

While the process of aging is certainly not a disease, it is a process of diminishment that occurs over time.  One of the virtues central to our response to these diminishments is resilience.

James and Evelyn Whitehead have written an intriguing book entitled The Virtue of Resilience: the bones of this blog are taken from this book which I highly recommend to you.

The American Psychological Association says resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, and or threats. It means bouncing back from difficult experiences.  Other descriptions of resilience include: the capacity to recover from wounds and rally from painful setbacks; the capacity to heal and grow yet stronger.

When we look at the underpinnings of resilience we find a wide array of capacities, capabilities and virtues.

Three capacities central to resilience are:

  1. Recruitability - the capacity to forge vital and enduring bonds with others. Being part of a community expands the sense that I am not alone.
  2. Reframing the ability to view the events of our life through a new lens. When we view a negative experience as a challenge rather than a potential defeat we then dig deep into our own personal strengths.
  3. Resolve the capacity to keep focused on our goals, our willingness to resist, to fight back and to defend ideals. Taking action gives us a sense of control of the circumstances of our life.

Psychologists Blieszner and Ramsey define resilience as the hardiness needed to change unfortunate situations into advantageous ones. They too give us three capacities:

  1. Recovery the ability to rebound or get-over a distressing experience
  2. Resistance the capacity to sustain a commitment
  3. Reconfiguration the ability to convert distress and suffering into opportunities for personal growth.

For well-known author Henri Nouwen the challenge of resilience is to pull our brokenness away from the shadow of the curse and put it under the light of blessing. Here is where we see resilience morph from a human capacity into a virtue- a gift from God that gives us power.

Resilience is to agelessness what stamina is to competitive sport, an undergirding power that allows the human spirit to prevail in spite of all the obstacles we may face. I hope to explore the virtue of resilience again in my next blogs  Until then ...

Stay light and be bright in God's grace,

Richard P. Johnson, Ph.D.

You can find the book The Virtue of Resilience at Orbis Books.

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