Persevering—Or Just Being Stubborn?

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
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There's a thin line between perseverance and stubbornness. Where you eventually land depends on the outcome—if you fail you were just stubborn, if you succeed you had great perseverance. The difference depends on your perspective, which isn't much comfort.

In May 2003, U.S. President George W. Bush declared "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq, freeing the country from decades of tyranny spanning multiple presidencies. That took perseverance.

In November 2006, the Republicans lost their majority in both the House and the Senate, thanks in part to America's frustration with the continuing terror in Iraq and the administration's seeming unwillingness to face facts. That smacks of stubbornness.

Or perhaps a less politically charged example: Job. He loses everything he holds dear and still worships God. We credit him with great perseverance, but his friends didn’t. They thought he was a stubborn old coot.

Moses struggled against a Pharaoh who refused to relent after nine terrible plagues. It was a battle of wills that didn't end until first borns started dying and Moses led his people victoriously across the Red Sea. That's perseverance.

But then Moses had to wander in the desert for 40 years thanks to the people's unfaithfulness. When he finally caught a glimpse of the Promised Land, he died. Thank you, stubbornness.

Sometimes you need a little of both. Sometimes you have to be stubborn in order to persevere. And if the perspective of history decides the difference, there's no point losing sleep over it. You still have to stick it out until the end, no matter the cost. To some, your actions may appear stubborn, and that's just too bad. Nobody said accomplishing great things was easy. That's why they're great things—not just anybody can accomplish them.

If you don't stick with it, things can get ugly. Moses stuck it out, going toe to toe with Pharoah despite being shut down nine times. Go Moses. But then things went awry in the wilderness, first with a golden cow and then when the people were too afraid to take the Promised Land. They refused to persevere. The consequence was 40 years of wandering. An entire generation missed out.

Suddenly perseverance in leadership seems vitally important. The alternative is a lot worse. You change direction with the wind. You can't accomplish anything. You don't get anywhere. You waste time, money, resources and especially people as they wring their hands in frustration.

Sometimes you have to be a little stubborn. But as long as you have some humility to admit when you've made mistakes, take heart and let history judge whether you're stubborn or full of perseverance.