The Declaration of Independence as a Template for Building Resilience. A Reflection. The United States Declaration of Independence teaches the ability to rise up--as a collective-- to address stress and duress. Sometimes, the only way to be resilient is by establishing our freedom; separating ourselves from that which no longer serves us. But the Declaration clearly articulates and intertwines two themes: freedom and spirituality. The early vision for the United States was about how these work together to teach resilience. Strength Beyond Complaint The Declaration is just that. It is not a complaint (although it lists many grievances about the King of Great Britain). It is an assertion of right. Resilient people don't just complain. The declaration was a positive and assertive response to oppression and to the King's neglect of the Colonies' attempts to address such abuse. Importantly, if it were only a complaint, the declaration would likely never refer to the many spiritual qualities therein: Humility, Providence, Solemnity, Honor, and Prudence.
Resilient people draw on an inner, often spiritual, strength. Whether one believes in the overt references to God, the Creator, and the Sacred, the U.S. has its source in the two steps of any process of resilience: (1) addressing adversity, and (2) drawing on some deep strength.
Two Steps: Confront and Pledge Here are two passages that speak to these two steps. The first comes after the signers have listed their grievances and establishes "enough is enough" -- the clear need for freedom. In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people. The second passage, the final lines, clearly shows the centrality of spirituality as woven into the original goal of the community intended by the forgers of the Declaration. With a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.
Take Away Questions Here then is something to think about...whether you consider yourself patriotic, civic-minded, or spiritual. First, when faced with stress and adversity, do you just complain about it? Yes. It is important to list grievances but only in the broader context of making the decision to separate from the abuse. Second, as you take action to address the adversity, what types of inner (spiritual) strengths do you draw from? What do you pledge to cultivate in your own life? How do you live for Fortune and Honor? As you reflect on these questions, I hope that you touch your own natural ability to be strong in the face of stress. From the beginning, this country has encouraged us to do just that.
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