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3 Virtues for Living More Resiliently in 2020

How humility, spiritual fortitude, and forgiveness can help you navigate 2020

Ales Me/Unsplash
Source: Ales Me/Unsplash

This past year has felt like the year that will never end. 2020 has been marked by a global pandemic, racial injustice, disasters, and political strife, to name just a few of the challenges. From the news to social media, it often seems like there is more bad news than good news to be found.

These challenges are taking a toll on many people’s mental health and overall well-being, including disillusionment. Anxiety, depression, loneliness, and trauma are just a few psychological struggles that researchers have tracked increases in across the United States and globally. However, there is still good news to be found in these unprecedented times: Living resiliently is still possible amidst adversity. In the following, some of the country’s leading psychological scholars share how the virtues of humility, spiritual fortitude, and forgiveness can help us navigate difficult times and hardships.


There are two key parts of humility. The first part is more internal and involves an accurate view of the self, including awareness and acknowledgment of one’s limitations. The second part is more interpersonal and involves being other-oriented rather than self-focused.

A key factor in living more resiliently is to know when we need help and to be able to seek out the help we need. Humility allows us to get in touch with our limitations and understand the areas of our life where we need help from others. When facing hardships, getting in touch with what we need is really helpful. For example, it might be helpful to ask yourself: In what areas am I doing OK, and in what areas do I need more help and assistance? Then, once we understand our limitations, we can reach out to others and be honest and vulnerable about our needs.

It feels more difficult than ever in our society to engage differences appropriately and effectively. We are so divided—racially, religiously, and politically. I believe humility can help.

— Joshua Hook, associate professor of psychology, University of North Texas

Spiritual Fortitude

Spiritual fortitude is the confidence that someone has sufficient spiritual resources to face and grow in the face of a stressor. Spiritual fortitude reflects a spiritual depth and capacity for authentic spiritual engagement in the wake of hardship.

Spiritual fortitude is likely a multifaceted construct, including not only confidence in one’s resources but the perceived functionality and suitability of such spiritual resources as they operate in periods of considerable strain. It involves having spiritual endurance (withstanding and persevering in difficult times), spiritual enterprise (maintaining integrity during adversity), and the hope for finding a renewed sense of purpose and meaning following the adversity. Spiritual fortitude can help people hold onto their faith and use their faith as a deep coping resource when life is difficult. Moreover, spiritual fortitude may lend itself to character building and development if people are able to transform their experiences of suffering into something meaningful.

Some possibilities for cultivating spiritual fortitude include: (a) committing oneself to a deeper engagement of their spiritual beliefs and practices during adversity, (b) surrounding oneself with a supportive spiritual community, (c) allowing one's spiritual beliefs to be shaped, in part, by the reality of their hardship (i.e., a willingness to revise beliefs that simply don't hold up to reality), and (d) embracing the difficult times in life and allowing this pain to help them do the hard work of growth.

— Daryl R. Van Tongeren, Associate Professor of Psychology, Hope College


Forgiveness is often difficult, and when we are tested and rise to the challenge, it strengthens us. That strengthening helps us bounce back in the wake of disasters and traumas. Forgiveness can help us become more resilient.

There are two separate types of forgiveness. The first type, decisional forgiveness, is a decision to treat the other person as a valued and valuable person. Emotional forgiveness is the gradual replacement of those unforgiving emotions until one has eliminated all the negative through empathy, sympathy, compassion, or love. Emotional forgiveness is usually more difficult. It is all about spending time trying to empathize, sympathize, experience compassion toward, or even love the person who harmed us.

We don't necessarily want to do that, especially soon after we've been hurt. But we can do several things to move toward this. We can read a book about forgiving with our offender specifically in mind, watch a movie with a forgiveness theme (think Les Misérables) with the offender in mind, or work through an evidence-based, do-it-yourself REACH Forgiveness workbook.

— Everett Worthington, Commonwealth Professor Emeritus of Virginia Commonwealth University