Bear Grylls is the first to admit he’s something of an unconventional Christian.
The survivalist and TV host is unabashedly open about his faith and how it serves as his foundation for living an empowered life. But he doesn’t want to sanitize his message to make it inoffensive to a religious audience, and frankly, he doesn’t have much time for Western church culture.
“I think Jesus would really struggle with 99% of churches nowadays,” the 48-year-old British adventurer told The Christian Post. “Our job in life is to stay close to Christ and drop the religious, drop the fluff, drop the church if you need to because that means so many different things to different people anyway. Keep the bit of church which is about community and friends and honesty and faith and love. All the masks, performances, music and worship bands and all of that sort of stuff — I don’t think Christ would recognize a lot of that.”
He expressed his distaste for what he called “religious language,” sanitizing messages in such a way where people “can’t be honest, can’t express doubt and can’t fail.” The Church, he said, is “the place to have doubts and questions.”
“Look at the early Church. It was a roomful of people eating and drinking and doubting and struggling and arguing,” he said.
But the Church today, he said, has gotten away from that.
“Probably most of the people in the congregation have substance abuse, and probably most of their congregations struggle with porn and all that sort of stuff,” he said. “What a relief it is when a pastor can stand up and go, ‘Welcome to the hospital, folks. Here we go. I'm just standing alongside you on the road, failing our way through, but reaching out of desperation for life and love and redemption. Let's look outwards, and love other people, and we’re in it together.’”
It’s this kind of honest, zero-fluff approach to life that has made Grylls a worldwide sensation and one of the most recognized faces of survival and outdoor adventure. A former British Special Forces soldier and Everest mountaineer, he starred in Discovery’s “Man vs. Wild” and hosted “Running Wild with Bear Grylls” on the National Geographic Channel Series.
He's embarked on countless dangerous expeditions, scaled Mount Everest, eaten snakes and spiders and even survived a free-fall parachuting accident in Africa. His books, which range from survival skills handbooks to fiction, have also sold over 15 million copies worldwide.
Grylls’ latest book, Mind Fuel: Simple Ways to Build Mental Resilience Every Day, offers honest and practical ways to practice better mental health, something he told CP is a crucial part of living a healthy, God-glorying life. He draws from his own struggles with confidence and self-doubt to challenge readers to prioritize their mental health and build resilience.
“I think the world is tougher than it's ever been; I think there are so many things hitting, especially young people from every angle,” he said. “I've written books on physical fitness, I've written books on nutrition and training and all that sort of things. I've written about spiritual stuff with Soul Fuel. But mental fuel is an important part of our arsenal; it can help us stay strong and build that resilience in a fast-changing world.”
Divided into short sections, Grylls’ book is easily digestible and full of practical tools for building mental resilience, from getting outside and prioritizing fitness and nutrition (Grylls said he mostly eats an animal-based diet: red meat, lots of dairy, fruit and honey) to surrounding oneself with community — all lessons the outdoorsman said he’s learned through failure. Grylls stresses the important role vulnerability plays in building mental resilience, highlighting the power of humility and sharing one’s struggles.
“We're so conditioned to only talk about the good stuff when it's working, but actually, it's in the struggles and in the things that go wrong that we build connections," he said. “When we have connections with people, we share their strengths. A problem shared is a problem halved.”
And faith, he said, is the most critical part of living a strong and empowered life.
“I think we neglect our spirituality at our own peril,” he said. “If you've got that connection to the Almighty, everything else is window dressing. Spirituality is such a key part of a survivor's toolbox. I say, arguably, it's the number one thing. If you get that right, everything else is bearable and possible, and achievable.”
He pointed out that throughout the Old and New Testaments, biblical heroes from King David and Daniel to John the Baptist dealt with their mental battles through connection to God.
“The solution is always found in connection with the Almighty,” he said. “There's always struggle, there's always hardship, but there's always faith, and faith always wins. Faith conquers everything. In terms of preparing us for life and keeping us mentally strong, faith is always key.”
He added that very few biblical, heroic moments happened on their own; rather, they always happened in community and between friends.
"It's always about togetherness," he said. "Look at Jesus with His band of guys who He shared everything with, the good, the bad and the struggles. They were always brutally honest. They were unchurched; they weren’t smiley and nice. It was raw, it was real, it was painful, it was honest, it was angry, it was jealous, it was all of these things. But it was spoken and it was shared and there was an incredible community, and in a way, that is Church.”
Grylls, who shares three sons with his wife of over 20 years, Shara, said children learn mental resilience primarily through example.
“We live it ourselves,” he said. “We embrace challenges. We get outside, we train, we give ourselves permission to fail. We keep going. We understand that resilience is a muscle and we develop it through struggles. We laugh together, we train together, get cold together. We try and eat healthy together.”
The Emmy winner also emphasized the power of encouragement, allowing children to “fail and to make their own mistakes and to know that loving arms are still there.” He challenged parents to “be free and be honest and share the struggles and know that faith and doubt are two sides of the same coin.”
“I think that speaks again to the church culture that can often be very judgy very harsh, very full of rules very unforgiving, ironically, very lacking in freedom,” he said. “And they wonder why so many kids have these epic spiritual journeys, and it can take them a lifetime if at all, to come back to the light because shedding off the heavy stuff is hard work. It’s especially hard in that church culture that has rules and regulations and performance and masks.”
Mental health, just like spiritual and physical health, is a key component to living an empowered life, Grylls said — and he wants people to be equipped in an increasingly anxious and depressed society.
“Don’t wait until you’re sick to see a doctor,” he said. “Mind Fuel is preventative mental health; I want to equip people to tackle life on the front foot, helping them learn some simple, daily and easily accessible tips that will help them. I wrote this book just as much for them as for the person that is going through the dark storms and struggles. I want to help people build mental resilience before they need it.”
Mind Fuel: Simple Ways to Build Mental Resilience Every Day is now available.
Leah M. Klett is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org