23 November 2020 | St. Albans, UK [John Surridge] Dr Gabor Mihalec is a Hungarian pastor, counsellor, author, and Family Ministries director. His presentation on ‘Resilience in Time of Crisis’ was the centrepiece of the Trans-European Division (TED) Year-End meetings, requested specifically to give church leaders coping mechanisms in these unprecedented COVID times. As with all the best presentations, Mihalec’s message was deceptively simple, just seven steps to building resilience.
Resilience can be illustrated by the story in Matthew 17, where Jesus, fresh from the transfiguration, is confronted by a man with a demon-possessed son. The disciples had not been able to drive out the demon, but Jesus did. When the disciples later asked Jesus why they could not heal the boy, Jesus told them that it was because of their lack of faith. In Mark’s account of the same story, He says, “This kind can come out only by prayer and fasting.” “But,” said Mihalec, “where was the prayer and fasting? There is no record of this in the text.” The answer must be that Jesus had built up a “stockpile” of prayer and fasting, which then gave Him the ability to deal with the situation.
The concept of “stockpiling” is key to an understanding of resilience. It is not something that people have naturally, but it is a skill that can be learnt, and a resource that can be developed. It comes from the Latin root meaning to “bounce back” – but bouncing back is not enough. We don’t just want to recover back to the position we were in before, we want to move forward and improve.
These principles are particularly applicable during the COVID crisis. Studies have shown that resilient people are better in teamwork, problem solving, coping with difficult emotions, and adapting to unexpected events. They have better physical health and are generally kinder and nicer people. If this skill can be learnt, we certainly need to learn it.
“Resilience is not what happens, but the way we react,” said Mihalec. Quoting Viktor E Frankl, who survived four concentration camps, he said, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances; to choose one’s own way.”
Mihalec’s presentation has been recorded and is available to download here. It is also the subject of his latest book, which will be available in Hungarian in February 2020, additionally, it will be translated to other languages in the near future. But in summary, and based on extensive research that he conducted during the COVID period, his seven steps to resilience are as follows:
- Communication. We need to understand each other’s feelings and not put other people down.
- Conflict resolution. We need to learn to disagree without becoming enemies. Keeping calm in these circumstances is essential – even our pets can detect our emotions!
- Affection and intimacy. People react in different ways to stress and, if this affects your ability to be intimate, you need to discuss it with your partner. We should look for the deeper needs.
- Financial management. Having a stockpile of savings gives you a buffer to help in difficult times. Stewardship is not just about tithe and getting people to give more, it includes teaching people how to manage their resources.
- Personal hygiene and order. During COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown, the people who didn’t bother to keep themselves and their homes tidy found they were less able to cope with other challenges. “If something happens that you can’t control, start regaining power over your life by controlling what you can.”
- Emotional availability. Responding to a partner’s emotional needs, showing that you care about their joys and fears, builds resilience.
- Spirituality. A faith that is real and shared, not just a religious formality, can sustain us in a time of crisis. We need to ensure that our members are not just spectators in our services, but participants.
A lively discussion followed the presentation with questions such as, “What about single people?”, “How can we include this in pastoral training?”, “Where can we get resource materials on this subject?”, and, “How can I put these principles into practice without them coming across as artificial and provocative?”
We do not have room for the answers here, but if you’re interested in learning more about this subject, please watch the presentation for yourself.
tedNEWS Staff: Victor Hulbert, editor; Deana Stojković, associate editor
119 St Peter’s Street, St Albans, Herts, AL1 3EY, England
E-mail: [email protected]
tedNEWS is an information bulletin issued by the communication department of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Trans-European Division. Readers are free to republish or share this article with appropriate credit including an active hyperlink to the original article.