After Jesus, wine-tasting, and scandalous literary fiction, my next favorite hot topic is emotion. Past blog posts include: Feeling Offended, Feeling Paranoid, Emotional Labor, Hungover At Church, all that jazz.
As a millennial very much entrenched in our self-care culture, I keep hearing: Be honest with yourself, be in touch with your emotions, don’t suppress negative feelings, introspect—habits that I’m told are healthy. Especially as a Christian.
Sarah Bessey writes in her book Out of Sorts about how we should “look at the darkness around us: don’t pretend it’s not real.”* She once subscribed to a mindset that used faith as a way to crack down on ‘negative’ emotions:
“We believed that our feelings and circumstances had to obey our carefully curated version of the Word of God: we are more than overcomers; the joy of the Lord is our strength; death has no sting. So don’t grieve when death comes calling: They are now with Jesus….Don’t be sad: The joy of the Lord is your strength.”**
This is obviously faulty thinking. But when I talked with my friend about processing emotions, she brought up another idea:
“You could be emotionally resilient.”
Resilience. The best example I have of resilient people are my parents. My mom and dad have undergone so much change and turbulence in their lives, yet they have risen above adversity and thrived without any apparent emotional damage. My brother calls it The [insert my family name] Response. I call it ‘stiff upper lippers.’
So what would resilience have to say about looking at the darkness?
For me, I believed resilience looked like not letting things get to you. It’s an emotional distance from your circumstances. It’s mastery of appraisal (read: appraisal theory).
“Resilient people don’t walk between the raindrops; they have scars to show for their experience. They struggle—but keep functioning anyway. Resilience is not the ability to escape unharmed. It is not about magic.”***
As my mom says, “Just because we keep a stiff upper lip, doesn’t mean we don’t struggle.”
In “10 Ways to Build Resilience,” the American Psychological Association listed (yes) “keep things in perspective” and (yes) “maintain a hopeful outlook,” but it also pushed self-care and reflection.
“Pay attention to your own needs and feelings….some people write about their deepest thoughts and feelings related to trauma or other stressful events in their life. Meditation and spiritual practices help some people build connections and restore hope.”****
I’m not a very “zen” person but if it helps build resilience, then who am I to make judgments?
For me, this means being a resilient person is not at odds with being a feeling person. A resilient person can look into the darkness and then, in ways that are probably different for everyone, is able to carry on.
Carry on, of course, with God as their Comforter (2 Corinthians 1:3-5). That’s what I’ll be doing. Always.
*Bessey, Sarah. Out of Sorts: Making Peace with an Evolving Faith. Howard Books, 2015. pg. 181
***Marano, Hara Estroff. “The Art of Resilience.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 1 May 2003, www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200305/the-art-resilience.