I hear that he is a man with true GRIT.” – Mattie Ross, True Grit, 1969

Grit doesn’t get talked a lot about in a society that prizes the easy and the compromising.

It is tough to be uncompromising in such a societal structure.

However, to paraphrase from the film Braveheart, it is easy to admire uncompromising men, without actually doing the hard work of joining them in their pursuit of doing the hard thing.

The definition of grit is clear:

  • Sand, gravel
  • A hard sharp granule (as of sand); also :material (as many abrasives) composed of such granules
  • Any of several sandstones the structure of a stone that adapts it to grinding
  • The size of abrasive particles usually expressed as their mesh
  • Firmness of mind or spirit: unyielding courage in the face of hardship or danger
  • Capitalized: a Liberal in Canadian politics

The fourth definition is the clearest one for our purposes here.

Grit has come to the forefront in the last few years as the idea of inherent talent has begun to take a beating from the likes of evolutionary biologists and post-post-modern philosophers.

In its clearest form, grit becomes a holdover from a simpler time, when talent was not as valued in the Western world. Instead, traits such as perseverance, persistence, courage and spirit were once lauded as virtues.

As the 20th century rolled on by, and as we entered the vaunted “Atomic Age,” grit became valued less and less.

And, with the rise in the latter part of the 20th century, of computing, analytics, the Internet, and other faster and faster methods of accomplishing what used to be slow, and grinding (like an abrasive piece of…well…gravel) grit was less and less talked considered as an important character trait.

But, my how the worm turns: As the holes in our education system have become more and more exposed in the opening years of the new Millennium, grit has made a comeback–becoming a touchstone for encouraging children to develop perseverance, resilience, persistence and to avoid quitting early.

But grit is still scary. Deep in our heart of hearts, we would rather succeed through ease of talent versus the scary, hard thing of work, taking hits and developing a thick skin.

The story we consistently tell ourselves about resiliency, persistence and grit is one of no fun, delayed glory and little riches.

In a world of instant connections and instant gratification, who wouldn’t quit and avoid conflicts in their lives if that were the alternative?

But maybe, that’s the only alternative that matters. Maybe the only alternative is to pick a position, be uncompromising, and grind it out.

Maybe the only alternative is to be a person with true grit.

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT: jsorrells@hsconsultingandtraining.com
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