It’s not that we ever consciously decided that this was the case. It’s just what we’ve been taught. The dominant culture around us may be well intended, but it takes us down the wrong path. “Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps,” it says. “You’re stronger than you think.” “If it first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” This is how resilience is most often framed: It’s all about individual mental toughness and inner strength.
Our faith tradition sometimes plays into this heroic form of resilience. We reject the idea that human beings are depraved, broken and weak. Instead, we champion the view that we are strong–not just inherently worthy but also inherently resourceful. We have, at times, promoted a “You can do it!” theology.
And yet at our best, we are more nuanced. When it comes to resilience, our most saving message has always been, “You can do it and you do not have to do it on your own!” There is a common metaphor about resilience; the one about being a tree that is willing to lean and bend rather than hold tight in place and break. We UUs take a different approach to this strategy of leaning. Yes, be willing to lean back and forth, we say. But most importantly, be willing to lean in –and on- each other! It is a reminder that resilience does have a lot to do with what is inside us, but it has even more to do with what is between us. The true path of resilience is the path of connection. This is where our Soul Matters framing is so important; we are indeed a people of resilience, not just a person of resilience.
We survive our pain by knowing it is shared. We continue to walk through the dark only when we sense we are not alone. Internal grit only gets us so far; empathy, assurance and love from others gets us the rest of the way. Resilience has everything to do with the water within which we swim and the web of connections that surround us.
So friends, this month, let’s look around as much as look within. Get that idea of resilience as a solo project out of your head and heart. Our covenantal theology asserts that we belong to each other. Let’s also remember that our resilience also belongs to and depends on each other.
A poem from the Hopi Nation starts us off on the right foot. It reads:
“The elders say we must let go of the shore.
Push off into the middle of the river,
and keep our heads above water.
And I say see who is there with you
The time of the lone wolf is over.”