COLUMN: Persevere through the hard times
All of us have had setbacks or have been “knocked down” at different times in our lives. Some more than others. Maybe there was a certain job that could not be achieved or a relationship that did not work out. Regardless of how many times we have been knocked down, the true test of character is in how many times we get back up.
Author Joseph Marshall III (Sicangu Lakota) discusses 12 Lakota virtues in his book, “The Lakota Way: Stories and Lessons for Living.” One of the 12 virtues to which he devotes an entire chapter is perseverance. He defines this virtue as “to persist, to strive in spite of difficulties.” One of the stories that he uses to illustrate perseverance is that of his grandfather, Albert Two Hawk. Working for the Civilian Conservation Corps during the 1930s, Two Hawk was on a construction crew building a dam. He says that “he arose at four o’clock in the morning, walked 8 miles to the job site, and then walked all day guiding (more like wrestling) a 4-foot-wide dirt scoop pulled by a team of four horses; fed, watered and put them in the pen; and walked 8 miles home. This was the routine six days a week for several months.”
Marshall goes on to tell about other similar events in the life of his grandfather and concludes that story by saying, “He knew how to persevere.”
Or consider the story of Dr. Viktor Frankl. Founder of logotherapy and a world-renowned psychiatrist, Frankl survived the horrors of Nazi concentration camps, most notably Auschwitz and Dachau. Tragically, both of his parents, his brother and his wife perished in the concentration camps, but Frankl survived and has inspired others to do the same. In his book, “Man’s Search for Meaning,” he describes looking up to the stars for hope: “My mind clung to my wife’s image.” Although naked, cold, undernourished, beaten, facing a 90 percent chance of entering the gas chamber and contemplating suicide, Frankl persevered. Reflecting on his ghastly experiences, Frankl explained that, while circumstances may sometimes be out of our control, the way we handle life’s challenges is always up to us: “There were always choices to make. Every day, every hour offered the opportunity to make a decision.”
Thankfully, most of us will never have to face the deplorable and daunting conditions that Frankl endured. But all of us can remember some difficult circumstance, situation or challenge that we have had to endure at some point in our lives. The importance of that struggle is not necessarily the challenge itself, but how we rose to it. Our character is measured by how we deal with life’s curve balls. Our lives are never defined by that lost job or failed relationship. Instead, our lives are defined by our character, by what it means to persevere in the face of what can even seem to be overwhelming odds.
Alan L. Neville is an associate professor of education at Northern State University. The views are his and do not represent NSU.