One of the words that floats around a lot these days is resilience. Resilience is often mentioned in terms of young people learning how to deal with the stresses of life. Resilience is about being strong. It’s about being able to cope, to react well to challenges and to bounce back from setbacks.
What seems clear is that the stresses of life are growing, especially for young people, more of whom are being identified as having mental health problems. Social media puts people’s lives under a microscope where they have to create an image and identity to make themselves appealing. This generation will face growing competition for jobs, higher student debt and mounting housing costs. A performance-based generation will be one where many are seen to fail.
It’s positive that people’s awareness of mental health is growing. People are talking about it more and it’s a good thing that managing mental well-being is becoming more of a feature of schools and workplaces. My concern is that in an age of individualism and independence, all of this desire to build resilience falls back to finding some inner strength and personal coping strategies. Ultimately it takes us back to some familiar ideas – to keep calm and carry on, to pull our socks up and in the end to get our **** together.
In the workplace, this can result in putting on a front – trying to look like you are in control and on top of things. This façade is not easy to maintain; it’s exhausting and counter-productive.
What if resilience meant something very different? What if resilience was about reaching out for help? What if we built resilient communities where people shared lives and helped carry each other’s burdens, using our different abilities and experiences to help one another do more than just get by, but to actually thrive?
I’m part of trying to build such a community through a group of friends who connect through St Thomas’ Church in Crookes. Our common belief is that there is a God who loves us, whom we can call on for help. We have found that He can give us strength when we are weak, hope when we are downcast and wisdom when we need to change things.
Critically, in an ever more isolating and independent world, He gives us each other to work all this though. So, for my wife Louise, who is struggling to get into a groove at the new school she teaches at, it’s about setting up a Whatsapp group so she can share prayer requests and receive advice and encouragement. A week later it’s not all fixed, but the prayer support has made a huge difference and things are getting better.
Am I tough enough? Sometimes. Most importantly, I’m not alone when the challenges come. My encouragement is that others don’t need to be alone either. It’s not how we were made to be.