VIRTUS TENTAMINE GAUDET (Strength Rejoices in the Challenge) – Hillsdale College Motto

The Lessons of Battle

Last night, I witnessed an amazing battle on a basketball court. Two very talented teams went at it for 40 minutes in an aggressive and well-played contest that revealed a number of things about the players, coaches, referees, and fans.  The Hillsdale College Chargers mounted a furious 27-11 run over the last 5 minutes of the game to beat #19 Lake Superior State 82-80.  It was an amazing comeback that made an indelible impression upon me and affirmed the meaning of the College’s motto.

Grit is the word that comes to mind as I consider this contest.  Though most of us are long past our glory days of such intense, face-to-face confrontation, there are many lessons in battles like these that we should remember as we face our daily struggles.

What is Grit?

What is grit?  It is defined as “strength of character.”  John Wayne showed us True Grit.  It suggests pluck or bravery in the face of long odds.  It is that “je ne sais quoi” that somehow, someway makes a difference when we need it most.  It is perseverance and determination.

  • GRIT is never giving up, no matter how far behind or how seemingly impossible your situation.
  • GRIT is single minded focus and determination when you are called to rise to the occasion.
  • GRIT is giving everything you have for the duration of the contest.  Then waking up the next day and doing it again.
  • GRIT is trusting your team to be there, step-up, and rally to the fight with you.
  • GRIT is ignoring the jeers, the cheers, and the whistles which conspire to distract, disrupt, or even support you as you battle on.
  • GRIT is not being afraid to gamble on the possible even though you are facing the impossible.
  • GRIT is believing in yourself and taking your shot even though you missed the shot, or 5 shots, before.
  • GRIT is playing fearlessly when you are gripped by fear.
  • GRIT is admitting you were wrong and making the changes necessary to be right.
  • GRIT is forgiving yourself, and others, for making a mistake.
  • GRIT is allowing yourself to be vulnerable or embracing your steely-eyed resolve as the situation may require.
  • GRIT is shaking the hand of a worthy opponent and acknowledging his or her effort.
  • GRIT is winning, or losing, and finding comfort knowing you gave it your best.
  • GRIT is continuing to play the game knowing that sometimes you will lose.
  • GRIT is letting go when the contest is done.  Then jumping-in to do it again.

Grit Revealed

As I watched the final moments of the game, I witnessed Grit revealing itself in so many places on and off the floor: diving for a ball, taking a charge, making a bold pass, getting up after being knocked down, coming back after making a mistake, maintaining poise as tension mounted.  Such intense moments make Grit easy to see.  Our challenge lies in mustering our Grit in those daily struggles that relentlessly harry us.  Against the epic or the mundane, Grit carries us through.

You Will Win AND You Will Lose

The reality is that we are going to win and we are going to lose.  That is simply how life works.  To win well and to lose well are skills that we must master to be all that we can be; to do all that we are called to do.

In his poem If, Rudyard Kipling wrote that “If you can meet with Triumph or Disaster, and treat those two impostors just the same,” you are on your way to success.  Grit is that key element which helps us navigate the wins and the losses.  Grit is what enables us to win, or lose, well.