3rd July 2018

This week for Creative Spirituality our title is 'bounce'. We're thinking about resilience.

Resilience is the ability to bounce back, to recover from disappointment,  to be able to pick yourself up and try again. I've been thinking about this lately to myself... why does it matter?

Recently we've been advertising for an artist in residence, for the Hermitage residency which will start in the autumn of this year. We had over 300 enquiries and 97 actual applications.  But we could only choose one person. This meant that 96 people would be rejected. What would happen if they decided not to try again? Not to apply for any more grants or any new projects? If they thought that this one rejection meant that they weren't any good as an artist and that they shouldn't bother anymore? It would probably mean that some really great work would never be seen by anyone. That what they were capable of doing, would never be discovered by anyone else, which would be a great loss for them and us.

We often think of failure something to avoid, but I'd like to suggest that actually it's something to embrace.  Failure is how we learn, it's how we grow. Resilience is developed through failure and mistakes.

Dr Kelly Flanagan is a psychologist working in the US and he regularly posts blog articles which I find insightful and interesting. He published an article recently entitled “Why we need to wobble.” In it he described his daughter’s attempts to learn to ride a bike. For three years she had failed to be able to master cycling. This summer they tried again to help her learn to ride. And this year he finally realised what the problem was. He realised that he was actually preventing his daughter from being able to ride her bike properly, because he wasn't letting go of the back of her seat. He wasn’t letting her wobble. But it’s in the process of wobbling that we learn to balance.

Cycling is all about balance. It’s all about overcoming each little bump on the road in order to stay upright. In fact we wobble the whole time! We are constantly adjusting our position. There is never a point at which the road is so smooth that we don't need to do this. And each wobble and each curve and bump in the road gives us the confidence that we can overcome the obstacles and we can keep going on the road ahead.

The actor Chris Pratt was recently awarded the MTV generation award. In his acceptance speech he gave 9 rules for living one of which was this:  "Nobody is perfect. People will tell you that you're perfect just the way you are, you are not! You are imperfect. You always will be, but there is a powerful force that designed you that way, and if you're are willing to accept that, you will have grace."

Understanding that we will wobble; accepting that we are imperfect, that we will make mistakes - these are the things which enable us to give ourselves permission to fail. And in so doing we give ourselves permission to try again, permission to learn, to grow and to move on.

And that's what resilience is - that quality to accept ourselves for who we are, and to understand that nothing is wasted if we've learnt something from it. 

Do you need to give yourself permission to fail?

Do you need to celebrate your mistakes as well as your successes?

Do you need to embrace the wobbly bike moments, knowing that eventually you'll become more confident?

How will you nurture your bounce?

Portsmouth Cathedral