Resilient, or…?

Brad M. Griffin | Jun 2, 2010

This weeks E-Journal features Jesse Oakes new article on the study of resilience and its implications for youth ministry. Let me give you a hint up-front if you like research: check out the footnotes. This guy has done his homework (something we admire at FYI). But hes done it for the love of kids, as a practicing high school pastor.

One part of the article is particularly intriguing to me, asking the question: What (and who) defines health? Overall health (physical, emotional, spiritual, intellectual) can be hard to really pinpoint, and we tend to define it based on the biases of our respective viewpoints. But check out this insight (Im directly pulling from the article here) from the work of researcher Anita Hunter: ((Anita Hunter, A Cross-Cultural Comparison of Resilience in Adolescents, Journal of Pediatric Nursing 16, no. 3 (June 2001): 172-179.))

Analysis of focus group data gathered from teenagers in the United States and Africa revealed that young people often overcome adversity by internalizing their pain, rationalizing it by denying their self-worth, isolating themselves physically, and insulating themselves internally from their feelings. In essence, the students made survival their primary (and perhaps, their singular) goal. Resilience for them was the process of borrowing against their emotional future in order to keep themselves together in the present.

Read that last line again. Borrowing against their emotional future in order to keep themselves together in the present. Know any kids who have survived this way? I sure have. And when I think about them, I realize that some of them are the ones we most let down in youth ministry. We praised their resilience without really being a helpful part of shalom-health in their lives. Take a look at the article and add to the conversationwhen have you seen resilience have a shadow side, and what can we do to nurture the healthiest kind of resilience?

Brad M. Griffin

Brad M. Griffin is the Senior Director of Content for the Fuller Youth Institute, where he develops research-based training for youth workers and parents. A speaker, writer, and volunteer youth pastor, Brad is the coauthor of over a dozen books, including 3 Big Questions That Change Every Teenager, Faith in an Anxious World, Growing Young, several Sticky Faith books, Every Parent’s Guide to Navigating Our Digital World, and Can I Ask That? Brad and his family live in Southern California, where he serves as Pastor of Youth and Family Ministries at Mountainside Communion.


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