“How we walk with the broken speaks louder than how we sit with the great” (Bill Bennot)

Force majeure is a common clause in contracts which essentially frees both parties from liability or obligation when an extraordinary event or circumstance beyond the control of the parties, such as a war, strike, riot, crime, epidemic or sudden legal changes prevents one or both parties from fulfilling their obligations under the contract. Explicitly excluded is any event described as an act of God, which covers a separate domain and legally differs, yet it is still related to contract law. For a defendant to invoke force majeure in French law, the event proposed as force majeure must pass three tests:

  1. Externality – the defendant must have nothing to do with the event’s happening
  2. Unpredictability – if the event could have been foreseen, the defendant is obligated to have prepared for it
  3. Irresistibility – the consequences of the event must have been unpreventable

Using the term “force majeure” rather loosely (writer’s privilege) and applying it to the contract of life (eating a healthy diet, exercising, looking after oneself, preventing personal harm, etc.), currently many seem to be considering using the clause to opt out of life itself. Facing circumstances that offer no hope, suicide seems to be the only option to put an end to their misery. They use the three tests of force majeure in relation to the current pandemic – they had nothing to do with causing the pandemic (externality), they could not have foreseen the pandemic (unpredictability) and the consequences of the pandemic have been unpreventable (irresistibility). Their hands are tied.

We all have been, are still going through and are attempting to cope with the direct and indirect impacts of the corona virus pandemic, the COVID-19 disease which has devastated the lives and livelihoods of so many. Millions have died, many more millions are still fighting for their lives and even more have lost their jobs. Those who serve on the frontline (especially healthcare workers) have had to cope with extraordinary levels of stress and anxiety, often with little support and care from others. The situation is dire.

One of the most significant fallouts from the pandemic has been its negative impact on mental health and emotional wellness – there has been much warning on this phenomenon from a variety of sources, but unfortunately with little response from governments and businesses alike. The world’s population is hurting and few are helping. The Centres of Disease Control, Gallup and the World Economic Forum recently released the following statistics:

  • Up to 37% of adults show signs of psychological distress
  • Up to 45% of adults feel adverse effects on mental health
  • 25% of USA adult citizens reported feeling a lot of sadness the previous day
  • Up to 70% of adults feel that this period is the most stressful of their careers
  • 25% of young adults recently considered taking their own lives

Mental health and emotional wellness issues need to be addressed if populations are going to emerge from the pandemic healthily. We need to set aside power struggles and greed and focus on offering psychological assistance and emotional support to families who are in pain – as Bill Bennot so eloquently notes: “How we walk with the broken speaks louder than how we sit with the great”. Collaborative efforts that demonstrate care need to be encouraged and supported.

The world’s suicide rate is alarmingly high presently – in many cases, suicide can be avoided when people authentically offer support and generate hope. We need to put up our hands and walk with the broken.

Free To Grow offers the workshop, Staying Strong, as a tool to build employees’ emotional fitness – resilience, optimism, ownership and flexibility – enabling them to persevere through tough times. When employees acquire the mindset and skills to break through instead of break down, they can direct their focus and energy towards meeting the needs of their organisation and the demands of their work. Experiencing “Staying Strong” together also creates a much-needed opportunity for connection and deeper conversations in teams. For more information, contact me on jonathan@ftgsa.co.za or view on https://freetogrow.com/covid-19-offerings/staying-strong/

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