Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.  

Resilience is the ability to recover, to bounce back, to find an acceptable quality of life when circumstances change. Resilience is not the same as strength. Resilience is more of mind than body, more of flexibility than resistance.

We're stimulated to study resilience in part by our growing awareness of climate change and the unavoidable impact it is having on the environment we depend on. Resilience also addresses upheavals in social structure; economic disruption and inequality, mass migrations, loss of privilege and weakening of the systems that protected that privilege.

In a stable environment, species and natural systems become more efficient at doing what they do. When something destabilizes the natural environment, those species who are the best adapted to the old environment are the most vulnerable. Species that seemed less efficient, more opportunistic, may find some of their seemingly pointless characteristics become valuable resources in establishing a new stability.

This process has evolved and endured over millennia, through numerous mass extinctions. Nature's functions are immortal - and amoral. All the values we associate with environmental changes are values we create as humans. Species extinction, wasted lands, all are viewed without moral judgement by Nature's process. If we make earth uninhabitable for humans, other species will adapt to fill our niche.

Disrupted communities need new methods,- ways of meeting essential needs; water, food, shelter. The methods chosen depend on the degree of cooperation, equity and trust.

Communities also need a concept of a desirable future and the will to pursue it. During World War II, the British admiralty was alarmed that crews of merchant vessels torpedoed in the North Atlantic were dying in their lifeboats. They had food, water. medical supplies and navigation equipment. Still, they were often dying after only a few days of moderate weather. No one assured the survivors they could live if they chose to do so.

When the admiralty began to train merchant sailors to have confidence in their prospects, survival rates went up. Traumatic events can be damaging or fatal to individuals, but they can be intense and liberating as well, and produce some of our most deeply felt and rewarding shared experiences.

For those who have experienced severe trauma, Healing may come through viewing the trauma as something that happened to their outer being, but not to their "real", innermost being, their "Core"; a core that can't be damaged or debased. Maybe recognizing "The inherent worth and dignity of every human being" - one of our Unitarian Universalist Principles - is a way of acknowledging that Core. Some may recognize Core as another word for the Soul.

Support our journalism. Subscribe today. →

The methods of resiliency are based on cooperation and trust. For a human community to be resilient, it needs more than methods. It needs motivation; the will to keep going.

The most durable motivation is Faith or Hope in a desirable future.

Faith is the belief that some external plan exists; that, though the world may seem very uncertain, the plan and the external force that made it will see us through the uncertainty.

Hope accepts uncertainty. Hope is putting one's will toward the most positive outcome the facts allow. Not everyone has Faith. All of us can Hope.

Without Hope, we will fail, like the merchant sailors in the lifeboat.

Our task, as religious communities, our contribution to making this community resilient, is to instill Hope.

Bruce Lierman is a member of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, which meets at 10 a.m. Sunday at 108 School St. in Bennington.


If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us.
We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.