This commentary discusses strategic environmental assessment (SEA) in the context of global environmental change and presents a brief overview of the science of social-ecological systems and the resilience thinking and practices that result from it. Resilience thinking and assessment have the potential to make a significant contribution to SEA, if SEA is applied (as intended) as a proactive tool for assessing development sustainability during the process of making plans, policies, and programs. So far, there is little indication that social-ecological system (SES) resilience ideas are being applied to SEA, and from a complex systems perspective, it seems that cognitive and social biases may be the primary barriers to both the improvement of SEA practice and the application of SES resilience science to SEA practice. Resilience thinking can be integrated into SEA, provided that leadership in the SEA community can create a social movement for change in practice and the policies that affect SEA procedures. Principles of complexity, uncertainty, self-organization, and cooperative problem solving may be the most important cognitive barriers to change and can be overcome through education and a learning-by-doing approach to the application of resilience assessment when appropriate in a SEA process. A deliberate change process can be undertaken in an action research approach that monitors and adapts the process according to the lessons learned in practice. Integr Environ Assess Manag 2018;14:571-577. © 2018 SETAC. © 2018 SETAC.