At the conclusion of a recent conversation, one of my closest friends said to me, “Thank you for believing so strongly in me. I hope I never let you down.” My response surprised him I think. I said, “You are welcome, and you will let me down. When you do, it will be ok.” If I could have finished my thought I would have said, “I don’t want to let you down, but it is likely I will. I hope it will be ok when I do.”
Authentic community is not suspended in the bonds of unity by the perfection of its members. It is not marked by all the members avoiding offense. It is not marked by the absence of conflict, disagreement, hurt feelings, sin or betrayal. Authentic community is marked by a love that transcends these human frailties and that unites each person to the other in a heavenly bond that perseveres in spite of our human frailty. This capacity for perseverance can be best described by the term “resilience.”
A dictionary definition of resilience might provide helpful reflection:
- the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.
- the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity.
A community’s resilience then is its ability to handle difficulties and to recover from them quickly. The general resilience of a community can be measured in the collective “toughness” of its individual members to deal with challenges and remain intact and healthy.
The resilience of a relationship and relationships in a community is determined by many things. The most powerful enabler of resilience is self-sacrificing love that flows out of and is empowered by our love for God. This love recognizes the profound depths of our own frailty and God’s provision. This kind of awareness sees the injurious or otherwise irritating frailty of others through the eyes of one who has been forgiven much and thus must forgive others and must remain in relationship. This humility knows its own sin and brokenness and lives in a state of profound gratitude to God for all that has been forgiven them. A perfect expression of this humility would never nurture a wound, harbor an irritation or withhold forgiveness because of the ever-present realization of how much they themselves have been forgiven by God.
Beyond authentic charity, another potent enabler of unity is the recognition that we need one another. God the Father through St. Catherine of Sienna has revealed that He has purposefully designed us in a way that we are insufficient in and of ourselves to attain salvation. He designed us to need one another for our salvation. St. Paul reveals in scripture that the Body of Christ is made up of many interdependent parts. This interdependency is akin to the kind of need mountaineers have for one another on a treacherous trek. All have a role to play in their own survival and the survival of others on the same trek. When one fails, all suffer. When one succeeds, all benefit and rejoice. Few expeditions achieve their ascent without authentic resilience. Many people and expeditions have failed due to a lack of resilience rooted in self-centeredness rather than other centeredness. To the degree that we are all other-centered our community resilience increases. To the degree that we are self-centered and focused on our own needs and desires, our community resilience decreases.
A third enabler of resilience in community is the embrace of a common rule of life. When Godward souls are called to a common standard that exists outside of themselves, the measure of progress on the journey is external and objective. Thus a common rule militates against an isolated self-ruled narcissism that judges and governs itself and others by its own desires, perceptions, preferences and standards. In this context, as we strive to ascend to the fullness of relationship with Christ, we are actually striving toward one another. The best way to illustrate this is to envision each member at the bottom of separate corners of a triangle ascending to God at the top. As each member ascends to God, they actually move closer to one another.
Questions for your consideration and response:
- What characteristics have you experienced thus far in Apostoli Viae that have helped you increased your resilience?
- Where do you feel we are weak or could improve our resilience as a group?
- What role can or should you play to increase our resiliency?
- What can you do to improve your own resiliency?
Unum est Necessarium