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Spirituality

How Baha’is Build Resilience

Dale Fowler | Sep 10, 2022

PART 1 IN SERIES Responding with Joy to Life’s Troubles

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

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Dale Fowler | Sep 10, 2022

PART 1 IN SERIES Responding with Joy to Life’s Troubles

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

The Baha’i Faith, along with the other major religions, is aspirational in nature at its core – which means that it encourages believers to put aside their worries and fears and trust in God.  

The Baha’i writings reassure everyone that obstacles and difficulties will eventually be overcome, and, in fact, that facing those tests and difficulties will help build our spiritual relationship with humanity and the Creator. This tradition characterizes all true religion. For example, the Bible says, in Isaiah 41:10:

Fear thou not; for I am with thee:

be not dismayed; for I am thy God:

I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee;

yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.

Further on in the Book of Isaiah, he says: 

But they that wait upon the Lord

shall renew their strength;

they shall mount up with wings as eagles;

they shall run, and not be weary;

and they shall walk, and not faint.

RELATED: The Baha’i Practice of Constructive Resilience

These two passages encourage us all to put aside our fears and trust in God. In other words, we are being counseled to become resilient beings, who focus on the spiritual side of our natures and face difficulties with a strong heart. 

Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Baha’i Faith, provided this inspiring guidance in 1946 to a group of Baha’is traveling to recently war-torn Europe to help relieve the suffering of Baha’i communities and all the peoples in the cities, towns, and countries there:

The sterner the task, the graver the responsibilities, the wider the field of exertion, the more persistently must the privileged members of this enviable [Baha’i] community strive, and the loftier must be the heights to which they should aspire, in the course of their God-given Mission, and throughout every stage in the irresistible and divinely guided evolution of their community life.

Setbacks may well surprise them; trials and disappointments may tax their patience and resourcefulness; the forces of darkness, either from within or from without, may seek to dampen their ardor, to disrupt their unity and break their spirit; pitfalls may surround the little band that must act as a vanguard to the host which must, in the years to come, spiritually raise up the sorely ravaged continent of Europe. None of these, however fierce, sinister, or unyielding they may appear, must be allowed to deflect the protagonists of a God-impelled Plan …

That they may press forward with undiminished fervor, with undimmed vision, with unfaltering steps, with indivisible unity, with unflinching determination until the shining goal is attained is my constant prayer, my ardent hope, and the dearest wish of my heart.

So, if being stalwart, strong, and steadfast creates a highly desired spiritual quality within us, let’s see what else we can we learn about resilience and what it takes to acquire it.

What Is Resiliency?

Generally, resiliency can be described as a set of protective characteristics possessed by those able to adapt to hardship or meet difficult challenges and succeed.

Historically, psychology and social science suggested resilience was either an inherent trait of hardiness, a process of adaptation, or an outcome, like the absence of  posttraumatic stress or the presence of posttraumatic growth after a  particular adversity.

But the potential for resilience is not a unique quality that one either possesses or lacks; the capacity for  resilience is inherent in all people. Resilience is not a single either/or outcome measured at a particular point. Research has shown that it is possible for us to simultaneously experience posttraumatic stress and growth, and these outcomes dynamically evolve throughout our lives. 

Finally, both trait and outcome conceptualizations suggest resilience is something that happens to the fortunate – a response we can hope for but not necessarily achieve. This is incorrect. Resilience is neither lucky nor passive. It takes deliberate effort, and it can be attained, developed, and practiced in all aspects of life. In addition, religious truth and faith can assist us to be resilient and bolster our efforts tremendously. 

RELATED: How My Traumatic Brain Injury Became a Gift

The Value of Effort and Aspiration

The Baha’i teachings ask us to be joyful – even through hardship and trouble. Abdu’l-Baha identified the key to becoming a happy and cheerful person in the face of difficulties – perseverance:

This is the time of happiness; it is the day of cheerfulness and exhilaration. For, praise to God, all the doors are opened through the bounty of the Glorious Beauty. But one must show forth perseverance and self-devotion and consecrate his thoughts, until the tree of hope may give fruit and produce  consequences.

If we “… show forth perseverance …” and have hope, then we will see positive outcomes. This can help everyone frame their personal responses to life’s tests – but what do we know about building resilience in groups, not just for ourselves individually, but in our larger communities? In the concluding essay in this series, we’ll examine a few of the Baha’i responses to that important question.

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Comments

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  • Matt Giani
    Sep 14, 2022
    -
    Excellent points Dale! I particularly appreciated the section on different conceptions of resilience and moving from a perspective that resilience is a static trait some possess (while others don't) or a discrete outcome of a particular process or event to viewing resilience as a process, informed by faith, that can both grow over time and coexist with pain and suffering. Really insightful post!
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