Religion and Resilience
Why do some people bounce back from adversity better than others?
The concept of resilience in physics refers to the quality of a material to regain its original shape after being bent, compressed or stretched. In psychology, it refers to one’s ability to cope and do well despite having to go through a number of difficulties in life.
How do we cultivate resilience? Are we born with it, or can we actually nurture it?
Research has shown many factors involved in promoting resilience, and religion is one of them. So how does religion cultivate resilience towards adversity? Here are some mental health protective factors that appeared to coincide with religion:
Identity. An affiliation with a religion could serve to bring a sense of who one is, and thus experiences a sense of belonging, or cohesion. Such sense of belonging brings a powerful source of security to individuals.
Meaning and values. To have meaning is to have an understanding of the core of whatever we do. Meaning and values give us a sense of control over the events in life. Many emotional problems result from a failure to find meaning in life, thus, having to find something that make life meaningful could help people build a life worth living.
New opportunities. Religion can also be effective by breaking a negative circle and opening up new opportunities for individuals. When a person faces challenges in life that keeps him/ her stuck, whereby he/ she loses hope and expectations for the future, his/ her religious or spiritual beliefs could serve as guidance of hope and meaning and in that way, open up new opportunities.
These resources affect each other. Together they build resilience, through cultivation of mental strength, temperament, emotional stability and intellect. These then allow individuals to understand and empathize with him- or herself as well as others, interact and build meaningful relationships, as well as build practical skills in making or doing things.
This by no means implies that religion should be imposed upon every individual. In fact, resilience could only be fostered through religious and spiritual beliefs when they are accepted and embraced by the individual.