I first stumbled upon the notion during my Master’s program, via a theologian named Miroslav Volf. Here’s what Volf has to say about human flourishing (from this article):
“I think in the Christian faith, human flourishing is life in which one receives oneself from God as a beloved child of God, and loves God and loves neighbor.
That’s a very rough definition of what it means to flourish as a human being. But I think it also has two significant components: The first component being that one leads one’s life well. The other component being that life goes well for one. So it has both active and passion dimensions to it. Health of the body might be a passive dimension of flourishing; aspects of moral responsibility are an active dimension.”
Human flourishing. I mean, the phrase even sounds beautiful.
From time to time when I’m asked what I’m studying in my current program, I reference this notion of flourishing. For me human flourishing is a God-given vision for life as God intends it, for individuals, for the community and for the systems of our world. Come to think of it, human flourishing is pretty close to the holistic Hebrew notion of shalom.
I heard a talk this week about human flourishing. Well, not explicitly, and the speaker never uses the term. And yet the story is certainly one of flourishing.
The speaker is Shauna Niequist and the talk is “What My Mother Taught Me.” Niequist is the daughter of Willow Creek’s Lynne and Bill Hybels, and in the talk she tells the story of how her mother went from flourishing to not flourishing to flourishing again. I think the talk provides not only a helpful snapshot of human flourishing, but it highlights what is at stake in a male privilege marked world where women are too often held back from flourishing.
Two short lines caught my attention, as I think they capture what flourishing is all about:
“I watched my mother become herself.”
“Make space for two callings in one home, in one marriage.”
You can find a transcript of the talk here on Niequist’s site. Or you can watch it below. As you watch it, let me encourage you to consider what flourishing could look like for you and your communities!