Cultivating Character: Thriving in Crisis
Around six weeks ago when I started praying and researching the topics I wanted to share in this month long blog series about calming our children in crisis, I knew that I wanted to address having meaningful conversations, healthy emotional expression, the importance of routine, and how to care for ourselves so we can care for our loved ones. I have sat down so many times in the last week and a half to write about self care, but as my fingers began typing, I kept hitting a mental block. I mean come on, how hard is it to talk about finding a good support system, creating space in the day to fill your love bank, boundaries, and eating a cookie if you want to. As I continued to pray, the word “character” kept coming to mind. It was then that I realized God was pushing me to revamp this final entry, not because self-care isn’t important in times of crisis, but because as we learn ways to help our families survive in the midst of trials, we also have the responsibility of teaching our children how to thrive when tough times come.
While we cannot protect our children from every fearful situation, we can teach them how to grow through hard times.
In agriculture, cultivation is the process of removing weeds from the garden and loosening the soil to improve the retention of air, water and nutrients. When this is related to our spiritual selves, we must be willing to let crisis be the catalyst for God to come in and remove the weeds of fear, doubt, and insecurity in our faith and in return plant seeds of confidence, self-control, and a sound mind that bring about healthy personal growth. Cultivating this kind of character in ourselves and teaching our children to have this perspective is one of the biggest ways we can actually care for our family as a whole. While we cannot protect our children from every fearful situation, we can teach them how to grow through hard times. Here are three ways we can cultivate character through crisis that will teach our children resilience and perspective in problems.
1. Keep moving forward, even if at a snail’s pace.
Crisis has a tendency to stop us in our tracks. Crisis is unplanned and can’t be prepared for. Crisis does not have a defined length of stay and is often paralyzing. One of the greatest lessons we can learn in effectively managing a crisis is how to move forward when we think we only have the strength to stand still. Progress is defined by motion. Even though we can’t feel the earth move, we know it does because of the change of light within the day. Even grief moves through the stages of denial, anger, depression, bargaining and acceptance. I will never tell someone how long they should stay in one stage over the other because there is no time limit to grief in crisis, but I do feel like progress in healing cannot happen unless you choose to move. Moving forward for you and your family might look like getting out of bed and brushing your teeth one day, and completing three crafts, school work and a home cooked meal the next, but the goal is progress, not perfection. There will be setbacks and detours in the process of healing, but one step forward will eventually look like twenty steps forward and that is the goal in personal growth.
2. Acknowledge and accept the reality of the crisis.
I recently read the book Integrity by Dr. Henry Cloud and it challenged my view of how to handle difficult circumstances. We often think of integrity of character in terms of lying, cheating, or stealing, but Dr. Cloud focuses on the definition of “integrity” that means to be whole, integrated or complete. He defines integrity as “having the courage to meet the demands of reality.” Character is built as we acknowledge our weaknesses that come to light in hard times and accept the steps needed to make a perspective shift. We can teach our children the process of becoming self aware by helping them to see other points of view and help them identify ways they can be part of the solution; not a part of the problem. We can help our children by acknowledging their emotions and providing empathy and understanding for what they are feeling and then remind them that, despite problems, they can grow in the face of adversity.
3. Pay attention to the positive.
Paying attention to the positive and the lessons to be learned when we go through crisis can often seem impossible. Identifying “half-full” moments takes intentionality and effort, but it can be done in time. We can accomplish this by keeping a journal and writing down one thing we are grateful for. We can identify ways to help others and brainstorm with our kids ways they can encourage a friend or, if they are older, volunteer for a good cause. Even a small shift in focus has the ability to change our perspective and gives us strength to press on.
...our ability to shift our perspective in hard times is what will honestly cultivate the character needed to carry us through to the other side.
In Romans 5:3-4, the Apostle Paul states, “...but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance [keep moving forward]; perseverance, character [accept the reality of the crisis]; and character, hope [attend to the positive].” When we are in the darkest valley, hope might seem the farthest away, but our ability to shift our perspective in hard times is what will honestly cultivate the character needed to carry us through to the other side. The greatest gift we can teach our children in crisis is that survival is not our only option. Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Not only can we survive the crisis, but we were meant to thrive with God’s help.
Thanks for joining me on this journey to calming our children in crisis. My prayer is that, as the world begins to reopen, you will be able to reflect on this time of national crisis as one of family growth and, if you find yourself in the midst of a new crisis, that you will remember that you are not alone and there is support in each other and most importantly with God.
Cultivating Character is Entry FOUR in Sanctuary's blog series, Calm in Crisis, with licensed counselor, ministry wife, and guest blogger Karmen Wilson. Share with us in the comments about your takeaways from this month's blog series.
Karmen Wilson has been a Licensed Professional Counselor for 12 years and worked as an elementary school counselor for ten of those years. She and her husband Cameron have been married for 11 years and have served in a ministry staff role, off and on, throughout their marriage, totaling about six years--Cameron in production and Karmen in teaching and small groups. The Wilson family recently moved to Los Angeles, CA where Cameron is the Production Director for Vintage Church. Together they are both passionate about following God's call on their lives and creating authentic relationships and community through church. In their free time, they keep busy playing cars and going to parks with their vibrant two-year-old son, Jaxson. They also love going to the beach and driving around, finding cool restaurants and attractions in L.A.! Karmen has a passion for helping individuals in the areas of self-discovery, healing past hurts, infertility, marriage, and parenting. She can be reached via email for consulting and coaching.