Resilience Through Hope, Despair and Forgiveness


A wag once said that the only one who really likes change is a wet baby, yet our lives are filled with continuous, dramatic and ever accelerating change. What we learned at our grandparents’ knees half a century or so ago no longer fits the 21st century world. When our grandchildren sit on our knees, it is more likely they are teaching us a new app for our cellphone than learning from us.

If it is not to overwhelm us, dealing with change requires an amazing level of resilience, something that many of us did not expect to need at this stage of our lives. Fortunately there is help in acquiring such resilience in a newly released book by Joan McArthur-Blair and Jeanie Cockell called Building Resilience with Appreciative Inquiry. Cockell and McArthur-Blair are consultants who offer help in creating positive futures in part by building resilience. They tend to focus on leaders, which many of us still are, if no longer in the business and professional worlds, in community organizations or as matriarchs in our families.

In their book, resilience is built though the focus of appreciative inquiry and the application of appreciative intelligence. There are three components in building resilience using this framework. They involve learning how to deal with hope, despair and forgiveness.

Dealing with Hope

The appreciative approach centers around applied optimism and that makes hope a major component. However, being hopeful is not easy or automatic, though it comes easier to some than to others. It requires focus and practice. Once achieved, it can help us get through the biggest changes and the most difficult of times. Victor Frankl who survived Nazi concentration camps is an amazing example of this.

Experience in my own business tells me that hope works. We bid competitively for work. Often, after considerable effort putting together a proposal on our own time, we do not get the job. My response to my disappointed team is always ‘we are being saved for something better.’ And something else has always come up. I don’t know for sure if it is better than what we lost, but it is good.

Dealing with Despair

No matter how optimistic and hopeful we are, despair is an unavoidable part of life. If we are to be resilient, we have to know how to deal with it. When my mother died, a wise person told me ‘now you are walking the mourner’s path.’ This provided a kind of comfort. It told me that there was no way around my sorrow. I had to go through it. Second, it told me that paths end and my despair would not last forever. Despair from losing a job can often be dealt with by using the ‘being saved for something better’ mantra. Resilient people who practice such attitudes are more likely to find themselves in brighter circumstances in the future.

Dealing with Forgiveness

Forgiveness is a toughie. Someone has wronged us and hurt us. We are upset. It is not fair. They were the ones that harmed us. Why should we forgive them?

Because forgiveness is not about the person you are forgiving. It is about you. Foregoing forgiveness means we continue to allow anger, resentment and even fear to color our lives, our view of the world and the people in it. Letting go of these negative and limiting views enables us to see more good in the world and in the people around us. It lets us deal with change positively and with hope – and that is being resilient.

I have heard only one quibble with this book and the appreciative approach it uses. It is that it deals with the positive side of things and does not dig into the snags and difficulties we all face. To me, this is not a problem, but a very necessary balancing. Too much of everything we hear and see whether face to face, in the media or elsewhere concentrates on showing us only the disasters, past, present or future; real or imagined. We need more optimism. To be resilient enough to deal well with ever ongoing change, it really helps to focus on a brighter future. That focus is more likely to make it a reality.


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