Persistence – Stubbornness in the Right Places

Being persistent and being stubborn seem to go together. Their relationship seems to mirror what it’s like to have cousins. Same family, but different parental umbrellas. When a person exhibits persistent behavior, then you may say he’s stubborn. And when a person is stubborn by nature, he may exhibit unusual persistence in all his endeavors.

But, since they are different words, they ultimately mean different things. The difficulty lies in knowing when and how to use them, especially when you’re identifying areas of your own life.

For example, a stubborn person will keep certain attitudes or beliefs despite counsel or reason that says otherwise – for right or for wrong. Like staying in a toxic relationship. A friend may have advised another about the imbalance he is witnessing in his friend’s romantic life and still, the one receiving counsel will refuse to apply what he’s heard. The one in the relationship may think or believe that things will change or convince himself of the goodness there is – even if it’s not there. So in this case, it’s all about attitude and belief.

Conversely, a persistent person will stay the path despite the obstacles he faces. This could include or not include outside counsel, but doesn’t have to. Additionally, persistence is viewed over a prolonged period of time without change. You wouldn’t call a rusted screw ‘persistent’ as you try to remove it from a wall. That would imply a desire and a rusted screw has little desire to stay in a wall. And the screw doesn’t have a motive of staying in the wall either, it’s just rusted. So in this case, it’s all about desire and motive.

As someone who makes it his business to know as much as he can about words – and how to use them in new and different ways – I find stubbornness and persistence to be tricky tools of the trade. If I take a look at my own life, I’d rather be someone who is open to the advice of others, but I value the ideals of persistent people too. And many times, the most persistent of people – the ones who find success – seldom let too many voices in. That’s admirable, but it’s better to be teachable than a self-proclaimed know-it-all.

So here’s my own dilemma: writing for a living is a forever thing. Once you put something down, it’s there for eternity. The Internet teaches us that truth as much as the Bible does. So there’s a certain level of authority a person must exude if he is to be successful at it. And this is where it can get murky – the callings of a person’s life. This is something I struggle with daily: knowing when to stand firm along the journey; encompassing every attitude, belief, desire and motive I possess therein and yet somehow in the midst of that journey, remain open to appropriate counsel along the way. Again, that’s a tricky thing for anybody to do well, especially for someone who has only been on the Earth for a hair over three decades (that’s me).

I once heard that we shouldn’t doubt the call on our lives, but it’s okay to doubt if we’re the person to carry that vision out every once in a while. That may sound like a convenient way to hide future failure, but my experience has proven otherwise. It’s more of a reality than a cover up. Everyone has fears and everyone has times of darkness. If someone tells you otherwise, then they are covering up a potential failure themselves. It’s okay to break free from the trap of always feeling right or having to know what’s best. Again, another thing I struggle with daily, but to have a growing discernment of when to be persistent or when to be stubborn will help me grow as a person; something I want to be as persistent about as possible.