I have recently been following with interest the publicity around the upcoming launch of Sheridan Voysey’s new book, Resilient. Sheridan describes himself as a writer, speaker and broadcaster on faith and spirituality and he is a gifted communicator who sparks my interest in finding out more about Christian faith. I heard Sheridan speak on radio when he talked about his previous book ‘Resurrection Year’ and I was drawn by his personal fortitude and resilience. He eloquently described the tough decade he and his wife Merryn spent in their unsuccessful quest to have a child. Undoubtedly bruised by their experiences but commendably undaunted, he and Merryn have drawn upon their strong faith to support and guide them as they journeyed from their home in Australia to settle in the UK, a move which is proving to be successful for them both.
I have read some of the advance writing from Resilient and was particularly struck by the summary of research factors that are said to lead to human resilience. Sheridan describes four main factors that are referred to as forms of fitness:
The first factor is emotional fitness, the ability to amplify positive emotions like peace, gratitude, hope, or love, while managing negative ones like bitterness, sadness, or anger. The second is family fitness, having strong marriages and relationships by building trust, managing conflict, and extending forgiveness. The third is social fitness, having good friendships and work relations by developing empathy and emotional intelligence. And the fourth is spiritual fitness, defined as a sense of meaning and purpose from serving something greater than ourselves.
Sheridan relates all the above features to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount which forms the basis of his book and argues that it is not enough simply to hear or read about how we should become resilient, we must act it and we must live it for it to become part of us.
In other words, don’t just talk the talk but walk the walk too.
I would add healing fitness as an important factor in attaining the resilience to cope with trauma, grief, loss and life’s myriad challenges. By healing fitness, I mean the two way process of healing. This encompasses the healing received from others’ thoughts and prayers and the healing that in turn we give out, through our own compassion and empathy for individuals in their times of need. Sometimes it is difficult to find the time and space in our busy lives to think about healing, whether it is for ourselves or others, and I have come to learn over recent years how important it is to make time, to create time, to take time out for focusing on introspective thoughts, prayers and healing imagery. I would argue that healing fitness does not depend on following a particular faith or creed, though we need to have in place some form of underlying belief system. At the very least, we must believe in the power of positive thought for any healing to take place, whether it is physical, mental or emotional.
Healing fitness is vital for the trinity of contented mind, body and spirit that is reflected in our sense of balance and wellbeing.
We are all spiritual beings, but our spiritual aspects are not always as close to the surface as perhaps they should be. Reaching in and exploring our own spirituality can be a daunting prospect but it is ultimately rewarding, particularly if we can open our hearts to receive the wisdom and guidance of others who have trodden the path we may decide to follow.
And if we are not followers of God, and if we are just beginning to explore that road, and if we find the prospect overwhelming … then the guidance of those who are showing us the route will be appreciated in whatever forms their teachings take.
Resilient comprises 90 readings which are ‘designed to recalibrate your callings, relationships, spiritual practices and life choices’ – helping the reader to find resilience. I like the promise inherent in this description. If we are to examine a premise which contains hope for improvement or a better life, indeed the gift enclosed in any self help or uplifting work, then this seems to me to be a good way to do it. Sheridan is a man whom is well qualified to expound on the acquisition of resilience because of the life lessons he has learned along the way. I will read his book not just with interest, but with the belief and optimism that it can help me to see a different view of how to achieve resilience, perhaps through a new relationship with faith.