The Virtue of Resilience
by James D. Whitehead and Evelyn Eaton Whitehead
Paperback: 148 pages
Orbis Books (2016)
By Martin Folan
Co-authors James and Evelyn Eaton Whitehead’s The Virtue of Resilience offers readers both an instruction booklet and a toolkit to mine the resource of resilience hidden in every individual. Packed with a balance of case studies, stories, resources, instructions, and generous doses of humor, Resilience explores the meaning and power of the virtue in the context of biblical history, natural disasters, national tragedies, and civil life. From stories of soldiers whose lives remain shackled by post-traumatic stress disorder to a gunman’s attack on Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords; and from the civic resilience of Bostonians who rushed toward the Boston Marathon bombing site to save victims, to the community members who united to rebuild New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, resilience is a power of survival.
Described as “a resource both obvious and mysterious,” resilience’s three R factors — recruit, reframe, and resolve — by themselves are enough to provide individuals, or chaplains, the needed leverage to restore one’s soul to wholeness. Here, the Whiteheads are not long on words, but provide clear-cut definitions, examples of how each R achieves positive outcomes, and back their explanations with stories.
The Whiteheads impart very little of their own wisdom to readers, but instead rely on the expertise of renowned psychologists Carl Rogers and Erik Erikson; civil rights activist Nelson Mandela; and Dutch Catholic priest, writer, and theologian Henri Nouwen, among others.
Two of the more practical chapters are how-to sections: “Developing Resilience — Mindfulness and Humor” and “Practicing Resilience — Hope and Gratitude.” Although this book explores a most serious topic, these chapters will have you laughing as well. “Laughter is aerobic exercise,” the authors state. As exercise helps maintain physical health, laughter exercises the brain and keeps people healthy.
James Whitehead, a historian of religion, and Evelyn Eaton Whitehead, a developmental psychologist, understand human beings in mind, body, and spirit. They understand the need for hope and its power to deliver individuals from a mindset of today’s pain and suffering. They understand the power of appreciating life and expressing gratitude for all of its gifts. And they understand the effects of growing old, as show in the chapter “Resilience in Aging — Supporting Lifelong Resilience.”
Co-authors of more than a dozen books, the Whiteheads’ freshest dose of soul medication is a must-read for those eager to achieve greater spiritual empowerment personally and as professional chaplains.
Martin Folan, BCC, is director of mission and spirituality at Mercy Hospital and Medical Center in Chicago.