Resilience Through Purpose and Community

September 16, 2022 | Carrie Pollard, MSW RSW

Resilience Through Purpose and Community

Resilience is a blend of tenacity to persevere through life challenges combined with the flexibility to adapt to changing circumstances. Farmers’ resilience is tested daily from market fluctuations to capricious weather. On May 21, 2022, a storm with winds upwards of 120km/h caused significant damage and loss in a rural community outside of Ottawa, Ontario. Farmers lost silos, barns, sheds and livestock, and as one farmer stated, “it took me a lifetime to build it up… and it was gone in five minutes”. However, the agricultural community rallied to support one another in clean-up efforts and even in rescuing and rehoming livestock.

Neuropsychologist, Rick Hanson (2018), uses the analogy of a willow tree ‘bending rather than breaking’ in the storm to illustrate the importance of both flexibility and rootedness needed to be resilient during minor setbacks as well as major hardships. Building resilience requires us to be flexible in our expectations while steadfast in our values and purpose. It enhances inner strength and grit and encourages us to be open to accepting help from others. During times of adversity, we need to focus on what and who matters. Through this we build our inner and outer resources, which might not prevent bad things from happening in the future but will strengthen us to endure (and even thrive despite) them.  

How do we cultivate resilience?

  1. Find meaning in struggles and focus on our values. When people say ‘everything happens for a reason’ it can feel confusing and frustrating. How can pain and suffering have a greater purpose? Bad things don’t have meaning inherently, but we do have the capacity to take that pain and create meaning from it. We can use these experiences to strengthen our faith and connection with God, help others when they struggle, and to learn, grow, and understand ourselves and our circumstances better.
  2. Connect with our community. When we encounter difficulties, God has designed our bodies to release a blend of neurochemicals and neurohormones that provide us with enhanced focus and energy, as well as the courage to seek connection with others. We are not meant to fight our battles on our own. The Bible encourages us to not only “be strong and courageous” but to help one another and “carry each other’s burdens”. Farmers understand the importance of community, as one farmer that helped in the wake of the Ottawa storm said: “That’s just the way farmers are, they’re just people who are always open to help”.

When we feel overwhelmed, we need to remember God has built us strong and flexible like the willow tree and He has provided us with the people and supports needed to weather any storm.

Need more support? The CFFO has partnered with the National Farmer’s Mental Health Alliance to offer the Christian Farmer Wellness Program, which provides specialized resources designed to support your mental health and enhance resilience. Visit the CFFO website for more information.

Carrie Pollard, MSW RSW is a psychotherapist, wife of a grain farmer, mother of five, and co-founder of the National Farmer Mental Health Alliance. The CFFO Commentary represents the opinions of the writer and does not necessarily represent CFFO policy. The CFFO Commentary is heard weekly on CFCO Chatham, CKXS Chatham, CKNX Wingham, and CHLP Listowel.