“Be strong” …. “Hang in there, it’ll get better” …. Easy to say, right? But how does one ‘stay strong’ and ‘hang in there’ when emotions are rioting, circumstances are spiralling out of control and it feels like your tenuous grasp on sanity is slipping away? We’ve all been there, in some way or another. Even the most privileged among us are getting a taste of this while dealing with the pandemic. Either we’ve been personally affected or know someone who has. Most of the world has been cloaked with fear and anxiety, as the basic right to breathe freely is now under threat.
Under these circumstances, how does one continue to love others, work hard, find joy in the little things, and stay positive? How can we stay strong in such times, especially in a culture that places so much importance on creature comforts, compared to previous generations who were far better at toughing it out?
I have one word for you – grit. It basically means resilience, but grit is just easier to say, and it sounds so much cooler, don’t you think? The awesome thing about grit is that it’s a trait that can be learned. That’s good news! It means that even if you don’t have it by default, you can develop it. Now, there are books written about grit – defining it, breaking it down, explaining how to get it etc. However, the one book that helped me the most to instil grit, be mentally tough, and push past my own feelings and put others before myself, is the Bible. No, don’t blink, you read that right – The Bible. Let me break this down for you…
I’ve been a woman of faith for a few years now, and all my faith is solidly in Jesus. However, when the pandemic hit and lockdown started, my oh-so-important routine went topsy-turvy and I was floundering, trying desperately to portray positive leadership at work, stay organized and not freak out, and failing miserably. I realized that I had a choice to make – faith or fear. I chose faith. I turned to my Bible for answers, and I learned, prayed about and applied some things that are now a way of life for me. Here are the two most important ones –
1. Your focus defines your choices, not your circumstances:
“I can’t help it! I can’t help what I think!” …. Sounds familiar? Well, it’s not true. Seriously! You may not be able to prevent a thought from entering your mind, but you sure can stop yourself from dwelling on it. As Martin Luther so memorably put it, “You cannot keep birds from flying over your head but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair.”
The Bible tells us to turn over all our anxieties to God, because He cares for us; this thought can be a constant reminder and can help us tremendously to stop the horrid mental loop of discouragement or despair or anger that often plays over and over in our minds. Jesus is joyful and loving and compassionate, and if we focus on building an intimate relationship with Him as He so graciously offers us, we will eventually learn how to hand over our worries to Him – He’s certainly more equipped to handle them than we are!
2. Proximity is power:
The voices around you are either speaking life into you, or despair. Yes, it is literally that serious. Think hard about the ones closest to you – do they go along with everything you want or feel, or do they stand up to you when you’re wrong, push back and speak up, even though they might be risking the friendship, because their love for you trumps their fear of conflict? Don’t surround yourself with people who pamper your ego; your circle should help build your character.
The book of Proverbs, in the Bible, says that one who walks with the wise becomes wise, but whoever keeps company with fools only hurts himself. Many of us end up learning this the hard way! In order to develop grit, it is crucial to have people around us that who add value to us, make us better, and constantly push us to grow. And we must be able to do the same for them, with love and gentleness.
These, ladies and gentlemen, are a couple of things that can help us tough it out and give us grit, resilience, or whatever you want to call it. Yes, the times are tough, but the circumstances do not necessarily need to dictate what we become.