Life isn't a predictable flow of time, which affects all of us in the same way. Consider the word ‘resiliency’ which is that characteristic which helps us cope with the ups and downs that are normal in many lives. When people experience major challenges, that flexibility and adaptability offers some strength—but we know it doesn’t make problems go away. Perhaps that generality doesn’t help you at your time of life and health. You may be like so many of us for whom life goes along pretty well, but little things may cause some underlying concerns, worry, and anxiety. Perhaps you may be anxious when the electric bill comes every month, or when the bank statement arrives; or perhaps your arthritis is getting worse and you fear losing your mobility. Or perhaps you haven’t heard from your son in a while. Perhaps it’s your reaction to the coming winter’s gray cold days. Little things can add up for us to turn into quite a load. Resiliency doesn’t only help us for the big stuff; it also helps with the smaller daily parts of our lives.
How do you respond when someone says to you “Hi, how are you?” You know they don’t actually want to know how you are – it’s just a comment of social courtesy to start of conversation. Let’s think about that question, about what it really implies and how we might respond in kindness and concern. I think we can focus on those “R” words, beginning with ‘resiliency.’
Resiliency: What is it that helps us recover from, or adjust to misfortune or change? For little children it might be the teddy bear, or the blanket, or a hug from a parent. As we get older, perhaps it becomes a prayer shawl or quiet time in a favorite place with a cup of tea. It may be a visit with a trusted friend, gardening, reading or a hobby that is relaxing for us. Whatever helps quiet the ‘noise’ of life is good to incorporate into a daily routine. It then becomes a good habit, on which to draw if/when tough things come along.
Regular routine: Cluttered and chaotic lives, with busy schedules, and cluttered surroundings disturb us in our inner core. There might be too much stimulation to think clearly. It’s difficult to remember things when we don’t know where something is, or what’s on the calendar from one day to the next. Perhaps this part of your life needs some work.
Reasons: There are stresses that are common, generally involving loss. There is loss of a loved one, loss of health, loss of independence, loss of self-esteem, loss of dignity, loss of hope. People lose jobs, homes, marriages, strength. Perhaps there have been small losses that accumulate, and then when the next little loss comes along, it tips the person over the edge of tolerance – and resiliency fails. You’ve heard the expression that someone is ‘having a bad hair day.’ That may be the last straw in a long line of frustrations for someone.
Request: Let’s practice asking for what we need. Sometimes that is uncomfortable for us to do because we don’t like to show our vulnerability. When a friend asks “how are you?” consider how you might really ask for what you need or express what’s concerning you. “I’m looking for a ride. . . I need someone to talk with. . .I goofed up my last exam” might all be responses that would indicate openness to additional support and conversation.
Reveal: Being authentic in relationships builds trust. When someone reveals true thoughts and feelings, it encourages the same in others. It suggests safety in the confidentiality and concern of friendship.
React: Showing concern does not suggest than we can solve someone’s problem. Rather, it shows interest and concern for the person. “I’m sorry to hear that. . .tell me more. . .why is that?” are responses that may fit the situation.
Reverse: There is the reversal in someone’s life when a situation just turns around, like a reversal of “fortune” which can be devastating. There are other times when we have the opportunity to reverse a situation in which a difficulty can be overcome or shared.
Regret and remorse: We don’t get to go through our lives without wishing we had done some things differently in the past. There may be past mistakes for which we feel deeply ashamed. Sometimes we need to ask forgiveness and make amends to another person, to ourselves, or to God. Let go of that mistake, and more on with resolve.
Realistic expectations: Perhaps these ideas sound pertinent to the situation at hand. Often a person will be unable or unwilling to see the facts of the situation because of lack of complete information. That’s when it may be a good idea to have a visit with whatever professionals might be available. In some of the examples given here, it might be a conference with a physician, with an attorney, a financial expert, one of the pastors, or someone in your family.
Regroup: A good friend of mine has a phrase that has helped me overcome regret and remorse: it’s simply ‘forget it, and move on.’ Resume normal life, move on to other things.
Reaffirm: Assess your gifts, your strengths, those things that go well for you. List them on paper or keep them in mind, acknowledge them, be grateful for them. Extend that arm of yours, and reach up and pat yourself on the back. Take every opportunity to do that for others when you see good things in them. God reaffirms us in our faith, providing strength for each day.
Retrospect: Looking back can be useful; it provides grounds for the above thoughts on reaffirmation. Tell your story of life. Consider history of your family, community, church, country. Review it, write it down if you are able to do so.
Renew: Restore, refresh, and revive. Be strong when you can, reach out when you need strength. Reach out in relationship and friendship to others. Live as much as possible as one of grace. And finally,
Rejoice! Give thanks and be of good cheer whenever possible. As people of God, we hold fast to what is good, and live each day in faith, hope, and love.