Ircel Harrison, Pinnacle Coaching Coordinator

“It is vastly better to have tried something and failed than to have tried nothing and succeeded.”

In the Missional Imagination class that I teach at Central Baptist Theological Seminary, I ask students to write a final paper describing what they have to offer as a missional leader--one who leads a church or organization to embrace the missio Dei--mission of God.  On several occasions, students have cited the quality of resilience.

Resilience is defined in the dictionary as “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.”  Much like grit and mindset, this has become a topic of research in positive psychology where it is seen as the ability to cope with a crisis or to return to pre-crisis status quickly.

In most cases, those students who cite resilience as a personal characteristic have identified it as a result of life experience--failure in a project or program, loss of a job, rejection by a significant other, or death of an important person in their lives.  This is not a theoretical attribute but one that they have practiced and recognized in themselves.

What are some things that can help a person in ministry to practice resilience?

First, a person must have a clear sense of calling to ministry.  If one is truly called to ministry, the initial perception may be only a seed, but as one practices his or her calling, the rightness of vocation will grow over time.  My calling as a minister has been verified by my life experience.  Although the manner in which my ministry is practiced has changed over the years, the deep inner conviction has only grown stronger. This gives me a sense of hope and purpose that is sustaining.

Second, we must exercise the ability to learn from failure.  The easiest part is to fail.  The difficult part is to want to learn from the failure and attempt to avoid making the same mistake twice.  We learn from failure through self-reflection and feedback.  In self-reflection, we are willing to revisit the failure and pick through the pieces much as an FAA analyst picks through an airplane crash.  It can be painful.  This process has a tendency to be subjective, so we ask others for their analysis and feedback but, most importantly, we take that feedback seriously. The good news is that, in the process of analyzing failure, we discover the good as well as the bad.  We see what we did right as well as what we did wrong.

Third, we get up, dust ourselves off, and try again.  Of course, if we have practiced step two, we don’t do something exactly the same way again.  We develop new strategies and approaches.  We build on what we have done before but with improvements.  Most importantly, we act.

The only one who never fails is the person who tries nothing.  Brene Brown has popularized this memorable quote from President Theodore Roosevelt (please forgive the gender bias):

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."

What are you doing to develop resilience in your life and leadership?

Helen Renew