THE POWER OF GRIT: How to Be a Gritty Educator!
When I hear the word grit, I automatically envision the Incredible Hulk in an offensive stance—teeth clenched, face wrinkled, fists clenched, ready for battle! He is unafraid, confident, strong, and amazingly resilient. Every time I watch one of those Marvel movies, I think there is no way the Hulk should still be alive. I’m sure you are thinking, “Jackie, it’s just a movie. It isn’t real!” I know it isn’t real, but I am still mesmerized by how he survives an unbelievable beating. Just when I think he can’t take it anymore, he gets up and keeps fighting. The only way I can keep watching is by knowing how the story ends—the good guys always win! In last week’s blog Principal Jerry Wright, encouraged all of us to maintain our momentum as we strive to be light in our classrooms, schools, and communities. If you missed his blog, you can find it here (https://www.victoriouseducator.com/post/gaining-momentum-despite-the-barriers-a-principal-s-perspective). Jerry shared that one factor impacting momentum was the concept of grit. For some reason, I started to fixate on this term, wondering what it meant for us to be gritty Christian educators. Is grit Biblical? What is grit, and what should it look like? Are we actually supposed to be like the Hulk (with the exception of turning green) and transform into a superhero when adversity strikes?
I think the reason I was so drawn to the concept of grit is that messages surrounding educators these days aren’t very empowering. Often, the descriptive words used are exhausted, overworked, frustrated, and disheartened. While these terms may accurately characterize educators periodically, we don’t want these descriptions to define who we are. We are much grittier than that!
I did a little digging on the meaning of grit. As you might surmise, there are a variety of definitions. One particular source resonated with me by identifying five clear characteristics of grit. (1) In my opinion, these descriptions represent what it looks like to be a Victorious Educator! You know what? There is a Biblical basis for each one of them.
When we are reminded of the power within us through Jesus Christ, grit will be part of who we are. Would you believe our level of grit is a reflection of God’s work in our lives? Thank goodness we won’t be transforming into the Hulk; however, I would contend our transformation is even more astounding, more powerful, and more impactful than the Hulk’s!
So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image. 2 Corinthians 3:18
And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. Philippians 1:6
It is encouraging to know that grit doesn’t come from our own strength. Rather, grit is a result of the transformative work of God in our lives. As we take a quick look at these five characteristics of grit, join me and do some self-reflection.
How gritty are you?
All throughout Scripture we read the words “take courage.” Most of the time this phrase is accompanied by “fear not.” In Genesis 15:1 God said to Abraham, “Fear not, for I am your shield.” In Joshua 1:9, God implored Joshua to not be frightened because God was always with him. Just like in Biblical times, living a Godly life in today’s culture requires us to not only take courage but to do so without fear! This takes supernatural intervention because our human nature will always gravitate toward fear first. We have to remember that God is with us. He is our shield.
As educators, it takes courage to remain positive when everyone around you is negative. It takes courage to stand for what is right when it would be easier to turn a blind eye. It takes courage to offer to pray for someone who is hurting. It takes courage to forgive someone who has betrayed you. It takes courage to try something new. We don’t have to be fearful. We don’t have to close our doors and disengage. We don’t have to shrivel at the first sign of trouble. God’s power and presence in our lives produce courage, and with courage comes grit!
Unlike the other characteristics of grit, you probably won’t find the actual word conscientious in the Bible. I did a bit of digging and came up empty. However, when I consider what conscientiousness looks like, it is easy to make the connection to our Christian experience. Conscientious people tend to be self-disciplined and hard-working. They take their obligations and convictions seriously. They are often responsible, hard-working, goal-oriented rule followers. I dare say many educators today are highly conscientious!
When I read these descriptions, I can’t help but think of work ethic. Conscientious people aren’t lazy. Conscientiousness is a willingness to put in the work knowing rewards may or may not be realized this side of Heaven. Conscientious Christians care about their work because they know their work isn’t just a job but an opportunity to reflect Christ. Whether we like it or not, a lost world is watching. What we do and say matters. Let’s take Jesus’s words in Matthew 5:16 to heart.
Let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.
Being conscientious about the quality of our work (i.e., striving to do our best) isn’t always easy, especially during times of exhaustion or when those around us are satisfied with minimal effort. However, God’s Word reminds us if we humble ourselves under His authority, we can give all of our worries and cares to Him (1 Peter 5:6-7). Conscientiousness is part of making us a little grittier, especially when we remember why we do what we do.
Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ. Colossians 3:23-24
If I had to come up with a synonym for grit, it would probably be perseverance. I’m not sure this characteristic of grit needs much explaining. Perseverance can be defined as a continued effort to do or achieve something even when this is difficult or takes a long time. (2) Without a doubt, this characterizes the life of an educator. So many times we don’t get to see the results of our efforts; nevertheless, we persevere!
The Bible often refers to perseverance in terms of pursuing Godliness. James warns us to be “doers of the word and not hearers only” (James 1:22). Unfortunately, too many Christians today get a bad rap because their actions don’t line up with the truth of God’s Word. Knowing and obeying God’s Word takes consistency and perseverance. It can’t be hit or miss. Perseverance takes work, but trust me; it’s worth it! When we stay the course and persevere in Godliness, blessings await us!
For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.” James 1:23-24
There’s no question that resilience and perseverance are bedfellows, but resilience seems to rachet this whole concept of grit up a notch. Remember our friend the Incredible Hulk? It doesn’t matter how many times he gets hit, shot, stabbed, or buried beneath heaps of rubble, he always bounces back. In essence, this is what it means to be resilient. It is the ability to withstand adversity and bounce back from difficult life events. This may be at the heart of grit.
For a believer, resilience comes from deep within as God’s power gives us the strength to withstand adversity. It is this sustaining power that enables us to remain undeterred from His calling on our lives. I can think of no better example in Scripture than Paul.
“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” 2 Corinthians 4:8–9.
The key to resiliency is faith (i.e., choosing to trust in what we know and not what we feel). We don’t give up. We don’t take matters into our own hands. We press on. We remain resilient knowing God is bigger than anything or anyone that comes against us.
“The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.” Psalm 37:23–24
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not to your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6
Not everyone would list passion as a characteristic of grit, but when you think about it, it makes sense. Passionate people are driven people. Passionate people go the extra mile when they don’t have to. Passionate people are committed to their values and beliefs. Their “can-do” attitude doesn’t want to take “no” for an answer.
This characteristic of grit seems to be the outward expression of courage, conscientiousness, perseverance, and resilience. In other words, these characteristics are manifested in a compelling and powerful emotion—passion!
The Bible often refers to passion as zeal. Zeal is defined as a “focused desire, characterized by passion and commitment.”(3) I love the AMPC translation of Paul’s command to us as true believers:
Never lag in zeal and in earnest endeavor; be aglow and burning with the Spirit, serving the Lord. Romans 12:11
When you read through various translations of this verse, words like enthusiasm, fervor, and devotion are used to describe what passion for God’s purposes should look like in our lives. Part of being a gritty educator is staying on fire for the Lord when everything around us is smoldering. Grit isn’t possible without passion. I realize this blog was a little bit long, and if you stayed with me, you are no doubt thinking about your level of grittiness. So let’s go back to the question I asked at the beginning. How gritty are you? If Christ lives in you, I have good news! 2 Peter 1:3 assures us we all can be gritty educators!
By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to Himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence.
Claim your grit today. Remember, no matter how exhausted, overworked, frustrated, or disheartened you may find yourself at any given moment, God has made you gritty! Through the power of the Holy Spirit, you can have courage, conscientiousness, perseverance, resilience, and passion—and you don’t even have to turn into an uncontrollable green monster! 😊