By John Hebert, Louisiana Baptist missions and ministry team leader
ALEXANDRIA, LA. (LBM)–Do you know what Winston Churchill, Bill Gates, Walt Disney, and Colonel Sanders have in common? It has nothing to do with their fame or notoriety, I would suggest. Instead, it is the trait that I contend was the cause of their renown — resilience.
I have observed that resilience is a characteristic most successful people possess, and I know firsthand that this is certainly true of successful church planters and church leaders.
— Winston Churchill was defeated in every election for public office until he became prime minister at age 62;
— Henry Ford went broke five different times before founding Ford Motor Company and becoming one of the wealthiest men in history;
— Bill Gates was a Harvard drop-out who founded a failed business (Traf-O-Data) before launching Microsoft;
— Colonel Sanders hawked his secret recipe hundreds of times before he found a restaurant that would accept it; and,
— Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper editor because he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas.”
These men were resilient when they failed and church planters and leaders must be resilient to succeed.
There is a rather short list of the characteristics of the resilient, and all of them relate to what is described in the field of leadership as “emotional intelligence” which is another way to describe emotional stability. Combined, this trio of traits contribute significantly to how highly successful people overcome challenges while motivating others.
These three attributes are: being optimistic and persevering; having and making use of a robust support system; and, bouncing back after setbacks.
They are achieved by a combination of self-management and management of others – which require self-awareness and awareness of others with respect to emotions or attitudes.
The product of mastering these three characteristics is calm or equanimity when faced with challenges, meaning leaders respond to obstacles and setbacks after observing, absorbing and reflecting instead of being emotionally reactive. The end result is resilience in the face of difficulty and adversity.
A fit example of the process might be a salmon swimming upstream to fulfill its life by creating the next generation of the species. There are dangers all along the way: swift, opposing currents, waterfalls, shallow water, and let’s not forget the bears.
Similarly, achieving emotional stability has its challenges.
I am not a psychologist nor the son of a psychologist. But, I am a keen observer of people and achievement. What follow are my tips for developing emotional security in order to achieve resiliency.
First and foremost, do not be a victim. Victims seldom succeed at anything in life, because they do not focus on recovering from setbacks. Victims tend to surrender instead of getting tougher. The bottom line is — If you thrive on the traumas you’ve experienced, you won’t seek the strength God offers to overcome difficulties.
Paul wrote “Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”
These are the words of a man who had his life in perspective to the call of God on his life, and reveal a person who relied God’s promise to help and depended on His power to overcome.
Secondly, use humor to respond to setbacks. This reflects optimism. People with a good sense of humor are self-aware, which is a must for emotional stability. Thus, optimism uses humor as a conduit of emotional stability.
Humor is a weapon that can be employed in such circumstances as a life-threatening illness or a business setback. Emotional maturity in these situations allow careful consideration of the facts and open consultation with God in the search for answers.
God put it this way in Proverbs 17:22, “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones.”
Thirdly, never allow yourself to be bitter — even about unjust situations. Lingering bitterness is like a bear trap – with you as the bear. Bear traps are baited to lure the giant animal close enough that it trips the trap. Once the jaws snap shut, the bear will thrash about, but for little good effect. The more the struggle, the more the springs tighten the grip.
Bitterness feeds a part of the dark side of the human spirit and it baits people in only to destroy them emotionally.
The Bible warns us to “get rid of all bitterness… along with every form of malice (Eph. 4:31),” and we should remember that this is wisdom from above.
Finally, learn to handle criticism. There is a difference between constructive criticism and un-deserved criticism. Constructive criticism is based on actual events and actions, whether the outcome was successful or not. Un-deserved criticism originates from emotional tensions and is a reactive response. It’s un-deserved.
Constructive criticism must be understood and used as feedback to make improvements. Whereas un-deserved criticism must be understood in terms of its emotional roots and discarded. Learn the difference … and invite constructive criticism if you want to become better in your work.
Resilience is the capacity to rise above adversity. Develop it, and with God-inspired motives, you’ll find success in your pursuits.