Being spiritually resilient without religion: an alternate perspective

by Staff Sgt. Travis Edwards
86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

We all have our bumps in the road. Some are minor speed humps and others are gaping potholes. Those are times where it seems there is nowhere to turn. But it isn’t about what got us there; it’s about what brought us back that counts and makes us resilient Airmen.

Spiritual resiliency is about having a sense of purpose — those values that sustain the sense of well-being, not necessarily religion.

So, how do we stay spiritually resilient without religion?

For me, it wasn’t difficult. However, it wasn’t religion; it was my personal circle — my personal belief in my Air Force, my family and my friends.

It’s hard to talk or even think about not being with my wife, but there were times in the first few years of our marriage where we almost threw in the towel and opted for the big D. We were in a rut — a hard one, too. It didn’t seem like we were compatible anymore, and having two children did not make the situation easier. Our commitment was being tested.

Things like a messy house or dirty dishes turned to escalating verbal attacks, usually ending nowhere. Divorce seemed more and more like a viable option; if things didn’t change, it would quickly become the next step.

This is where my personal circle helped.

I was fortunate enough to have an amazing crew at my first assignment at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. Almost everyone made themselves available to talk with me, but I will never forget the one who helped me the most. Mike was our deputy chief of public affairs. He was also a mentor, a friend and a great listener.

He allowed me to talk to him and put everything on the table. Mike was no stranger to being an Airman, closing in on 35 years in the service when we first met. After enduring a few days of my frustration, Mike said to me, “Travis, you need to stop talking to me about this, and both of you need to see a counselor.”

Mike was more known for his soft-spoken voice and daily rants on how the Horde kept killing his gnome hunter in online game play. But this day, I heard him very clearly; he was direct, yet compassionate.

My wife and I used a service provided by our Air Force family and made it to life skills, now mental health, and scheduled an appointment. After a year of bi-weekly sessions, we were doing better than ever and just celebrated our ninth anniversary on Valentine’s Day.

Without my friends and mentors there to help push me in the right direction, I don’t think this would have been possible. I found my spiritual resiliency is catalyzed by the opportunities and people surrounding me.

My friends help me unwind and listen to me after a stressful work week, and my co-workers offer that helping hand, pen and shoulder when I need it. This is truly the best I’ve been in my life. I have Mike to thank for his selfless service in ensuring I am a well-rounded, resilient Airman — even before the days of Air Force resiliency.

My personal circle isn’t a personal quality per se, but they are the things I choose to let into my life, things that I get to choose personally, things sans religion.

These are the things I believe in and have unwavering faith toward. Every Airman needs to find their own beliefs and stick to them until the point at which they evolve and grow.