One of the lessons in history is that it’s not the best or the brightest who win out in the end, but rather those who continue the pursuit long after others have given up. Positive psychologist Angela Duckworth calls this characteristic grit, and she and others have researched how it is one of the key elements of success. Both in our spiritual lives and in our work in the world, we need to cultivate a kind of spiritual grit by which we engage daily in the task of doing our Heavenly Father’s will.
One of the classic examples of grit in the Bible (outside of Jesus, of course) is St. Paul. One of the most intriguing characteristic of St. Paul is that God speaks to us through such an intimate portrait of holiness. In Paul we discover an Apostle on fire with Gospel, willing to risk everything for its proclamation, and at the same time a person deeply committed to interior transformation. We discover in Sacred Scripture a life filled with struggles, temptations, and incredible successes. Throughout, one of the key characteristics of St. Paul is that he sticks with it.
This is the kind of double movement that occurs in all believers’ lives. The interior precedes the exterior because the interior opens up pathways in the exterior. We need grit to explore the depths of our hearts, a grit that gives us the strength to face the ravages of sin in our lives. Scripture and the Sacraments act as a kind of interior light, helping us to discover the deep decay of sin. In turn, having allowed the healing of God’s grace to penetrate our lives, we then incarnate this grace and become conduits for God’s activity to permeate the world.
In both the interior and the exterior, the path is slow and arduous. Often, what seems like defeat on the surface can become great opportunities. Grit must be tempered by the trust given through faith. We must be determined to pursue the good, true, and beautiful with complete abandonment while at the same time possessing a deep trust in Divine providence that grants us inner peace. We must work recognizing that only “faith, hope, and love remain” and that the greatest of these is love (1 Corinthians 13:13).