On this episode of text.soul.culture, we’re talking all about resilience—not just as a theoretical idea or buzzword, but as a very real set of practices and resources that ground us in our vocation and help sustain meaningful work. Shauna Gauthier, Alumni Outreach Coordinator, talks with Kate Davis, Director of the Resilient Leaders Project (RLP), and Laura Wade Shirley, Circle Leader for RLP, about how they learned to recognize the need for resilience in their own lives, and about what they’re learning now as they develop new ways to help other leaders foster resilience.
If you’ve ever worked in ministry or a helping profession—or any work that requires your full self—you know this matters: the rate of burnout is too high, and the cost too steep, to not take seriously the need for resilience. We launched Resilient Leaders Project to help leaders and communities respond to that deep need in the midst of a changing church and fragmented culture.
Kate: “Resilient Leaders Project is about trying to come alongside leaders in their context to help them construct lives that support their good work, instead of feeling like their lives are at the cost of their work.”
In reflecting on what drew them into this work, Kate and Laura Wade share about their histories with the Church and how they came to believe it could be a space that would welcome them fully and unequivocally, in all of their brokenness and trauma. Because it turns out that it’s impossible to talk meaningfully about resilience without also talking about trauma.
Kate: “There’s a depth of experience that you must learn to narrate in your own life if you’re going to integrate the really hard pieces of your life. It’s not simply bouncing back to the shape that you were before something hard happened, it’s saying ‘How did this really difficult situation, this suffering that I went through, actually form me to be in some way more human, more compassionate, and therefore more divine?’”
“There’s a depth of experience that you must learn to narrate in your own life if you’re going to integrate the really hard pieces of your life.”
Laura Wade: “Resilience, to me, is finding healing and freedom and voice in the midst of those harmful places, and being able to meet the Spirit and meet God there to be different, to be more of who we are created to be. That’s the linking of resilience and trauma. I don’t think you can have resilience without some level of trauma.”
Shauna: “And maybe you can’t be a human and not have trauma.”
As we gather to reflect together on the trauma of Christ—the violence, betrayal, death, and resurrection—in the Church we might also find space to reflect on our own trauma, to lean into a community of others who can help us find language and meaning for that which is beyond words. This is a beautiful hope, that reflecting on the wounds of Christ in community might help us heal from our own wounds, but it is also a risky, vulnerable hope—one from which it is all too easy for many leaders to shy away. The rigorous demands and unspoken expectations of leadership often mean that leaders—especially in church, ministry, and nonprofit settings—are left feeling as if they cannot disclose experiences of trauma or uncertainty, and like there is not room for them to receive care.
Kate: “Wounded healer is language that we usually use, but we gloss over the wounded part, which means that we often have healed wounders in those roles.”
“Wounded healer is language that we usually use, but we gloss over the wounded part, which means that we often have healed wounders in those roles.”
Toward the end of the conversation, Kate and Laura Wade share about their experience in the first full year of RLP, inviting leaders into intentional connection, thoughtful reflection, and new practices that create room for their full selves—including their trauma, doubt, and brokenness—to be present in their work and relationship. This integrative work is a central part of building resilience, and it is a gift to journey with leaders as they step into that.
Kate: “My hope for the Church is that God’s not done. And it might not look like the church that it looked like in our parents’ or grandparents’ ages, it might not be focused on Sunday morning worship, but I think God’s not done in gathering people in a certain type of way. I want to be part of making that happen, and I want to be part of helping resource the creative and courageous people who are stepping into this unknown territory.”
Resources to Go Deeper
- You can learn more about the Resilient Leaders Project—including our newsletter, upcoming events, and the application process for our next cohort—at theseattleschool.edu/rlp.
- Kate shares a poem by an anonymous survivor of rape, which reads in its entirety: “I can’t forget what happened, but no one else remembers.” When she was a student at The Seattle School, Kate wrote this moving reflection about the installation and about church as a community that remembers and holds.
- Laura Wade recommends a book about integrating the feminine and masculine parts that live in each of us. The book is Wild Feminine: Finding Power, Spirit & Joy in the Female Body by Tami Lynn Kent.
- One of the practices Laura Wade mentions that she has returned to because of this work is running. You can read her reflection about how running helps her return to spiritual health in this blog.
- For more on resilience, you can watch Nikkita Oliver’s stunning talk from our 2018 Humanity Through Community gathering, and you can listen to Nikkita’s conversation with Shauna Gauthier from an earlier podcast episode.