Perseverance: The How, What, When, Where, and Why?
I have said before that I think and learn a lot with acronyms. My brain must think that way, because they come to me fairly easy. When I was hiking the other day, I was going over what I wanted my monthly focus to be for July. The word perseverance kept coming to me, so I have decided that is it! I will be focusing on the how, what, when, where, and why of perseverance. The what can be found in the definition of perseverance: "continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition; steadfastness" (Webster Dictionary). That definition gives me a "get up and go" feeling and attitude. "Continued effort", not effort for a little while or effort here and there, but continued. "Despite difficulties, failure, or opposition", ugh, that is the hard part. Even if we are feeling like we are never going to get to the end, we have to keep going. "Steadfastness" is the key, remaining steady will help you to face the trials.
My acronym will also help understand the what of perseverance. I think it is easier for you so see a picture showing my acronym.
Perseverance = Pursue every avenue with never ceasing effort.
I am going to continue to take the liberty of looking into the how, what, when, where, and why a bit out of the traditional order of the phrase. I defined the what above. I believe we need to know the why before the how. So, why do we need to have perseverance? I look to my faith to find this answer. There are several verses in the Christian Bible that give me direction.
"Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me." (Philippians 3:13-14, NIV)
"Whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." (Luke 1:2-4, NIV)
"Anyone who meets a testing challenge head-on and manages to stick it out is mighty fortunate. For such persons loyally in love with God, the reward is life and more life." (James 1:12, The Message)
"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time, we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." (Galatians 6:9, NIV)
The Christian Bible instructs people to persevere. A lot of other faiths, such as Hinduism and in the Quran also tell its followers that we will encounter trials and to have perseverance. Interestingly, the original text of the New Testament of the Christian Bible was in Greek. The greek word for perseverance is hupomone, which means steadfastness, constancy, and endurance. In all the above verses, we are to have steadfastness and endurance in order to remain in a constant pursuit of finishing strong. So, that is the why of perseverance, we are called to remain steadfast and strong to the end.
Now let's look at the how to have perseverance. There are so many examples of those in history that have stayed the course through many trials. Some of the most well known are Martin Luther King, Helen Keller, Anne Frank, Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan. There are so many more. Again, I will turn to the Christian Bible for some inspiration. In the 13th century BC, the Israelites had been enslaved in Egypt for decades. They had endured horrific plagues of hail, darkness, boils, and blood, just to name a few. Moses was called by God to lead the Israelites out of bondage by crossing the Red Sea. Imagine the fear, confusion, unfathomable anxiety, and anger that the Israelites felt as they looked out on the raging sea. They stood on one bank and wondered how in the world would they actually be able to cross to freedom and safety. I am sure they did not believe Moses when he claimed he would be able to get them across to the other side. They had to have faith in something that was much bigger than them and in something that they could not see.
Similarly, Job in the Bible, endured more pain than most of us can comprehend. In one day, Job lost all his sheep, servants, and all ten of his children. Yes, you read that correctly, in one day. I can only equate this story to the horrific genocide that has occurred in Africa and some middle eastern countries. In my human brain, I cannot understand the reason for this amount of suffering. Job certainly did not come out of this pain without doubting and running. In the end, though, he did believe in God and had an unbelievable perseverance to survive and even to thrive.
Did you know that in his sophomore year, Michael Jordan actually got cut from his high school basketball team? Martin Luther King was arrested over 20 times for protesting for freedom, was stabbed, and his house was bombed and set on fire. Michael Phelps suffered from depression and anxiety and contemplated suicide several times. Anne Frank lived above a business for 2 years where she had to be completely silent all day in order to survive the evil abuse of the Nazi army. We all know of the struggles of Helen Keller being deaf and blind, but she also was pursued by the FBI for her standing up for people with disabilities. Sometimes, I hear these stories, and I just say to myself, oh these are more extreme instances and accounts. Then, I am reminded that all of our struggles, no matter if viewed as "small" to extreme, they feel real to us.
The stories and lives of those I mentioned are inspiring indeed, but let's discuss the nuts and bolts of how do we persevere during tough times? I have boiled it down to three main points: being vulnerable, having faith, and focusing on the small wins.
Vulnerability is the root of being able to persevere. We must be able to be honest within ourselves in order to face our feelings that produce various emotions. I have said in other articles that our brains are wired for connection. Our relationship with ourselves is the backbone to being able to connect with others. Brene Brown in one of her blog entries, defines vulnerability as, "...uncertainty, risk, emotional exposure. But, vulnerability is not weakness; it's our most accurate measure of courage." "For when I am weak, I am strong." (2 Corinthians 12:9)
Having faith and trusting in the unknown will give you strength to keep going in the midst of suffering. This is not easy either! To me, having faith, is believing in the journey even if you cannot see the outcome or even some days minute to minute. Recently, Don Mcleod (Donny Mac) in his prayer walk discusses the idea of walking through the journey. Many days, I want to walk around or over the journey and even run away from it. I am sure all the people I mentioned earlier as well as the Israelites and Job wanted to not walk through the journey. Who actually wants to walk through pain? Not me! But, I am reminded daily, that we are not meant for this world. There is pain and suffering in this world, and we must choose to have faith and trust in the process.
Focusing on the small wins will help give you perspective and encouragement during the trials. Recently I read a book to one of my clients who was struggling with attention issues. The book is called My Whirling Twirling Motor by Merriam Sarcia Saunders. At the end, the little boy dreads his mother coming in to tuck him in for fear that he will be scolded for all the "bad" things he did during the day. He was delighted and filled with gratitude when his mother had a "wonderful list" of all the "good" things she caught him doing during the day. On the list were simple items, such as, "putting on his pj's quickly", "eating all his peas", and "brushing his teeth without getting frustrated". Wouldn't it be encouraging if we all kept our own wonderful lists! Think how we are cutting to ourselves at the end of a long day. Instead of noticing all the negative events of the day, try to focus on the small wins of the day. Inspirational leader, Tony Robbins, states, "What we focus on determines how we feel. And how we feel - our state of mind - powerfully influences our actions and interactions."
Lastly, the when and where of perseverance. The when is NOW! The where is HERE! So, the here and now is the key. Psalm 23 encourages us to "walk through the darkest valley". David, the psalmist, does not say walk around the valley or over it or to run away. The word, through, was chosen for a reason. I don't believe any of us would actually welcome to walk through a painful time. However, we do know that there will be a purpose in the end that will bring us to a new part of our journey. I have been asking myself lately, how can I walk through the valley but still stay present in the here and now? That is not easy. There are many days when I want to be on the other side, just as I am sure the Israelites wanted to be on the other side of the Red Sea. But, they had to walk through the valley. But, Moses' rod and staff were there to guide. David continues in Psalm 23 to say, "for you are with me; your rod and staff, they comfort me."
In conclusion, I am going to recall a famous quote from Rocky Balboa, “Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain't all sunshine and rainbows. It's a very mean and nasty place and I don't care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain't about how hard ya hit. It's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That's how winning is done!” Rocky puts it simply, but yet that statement is indeed challenging. How can you keep moving forward yet still remain present? How will you have faith and trust that vulnerability is the foundation to you moving through this journey? Who will you bring alongside you to encourage you to embrace the small wins? Lastly, I am reminded of the truth in Zephaniah 3:17, "Your God is present among you, a strong Warrior."