Grit is great. Defined by Angela Duckworth who has researched for over a decade, grit is passion plus perseverance. It is now one of the qualities colleges and universities commonly look for to predict who will "make it" through their program.
Grit definitely has a place in our lives, where we need to know our purpose—why we are doing what we are doing. And we pair it with passion—so we are doing something that springs from within us, something we care about. Grit gets us through the inevitable obstacles that life throws in our path.
But when grit takes over it often takes us in the wrong direction. Our determination without a sense of limits is not a good thing.
Worse yet, or maybe not—maybe this is just me—but I think it is worse when someone else's determination (grit) takes over and pushes me down a path I don't want to be on, or steam rolls right over me when we are on the same path.
Has that ever happened to you? Someone with too much passion, purpose and even power (a boss, a leader, a decision maker in your life)—someone "takes over" and although you may try to speak out about this, your words are not loud enough or strong enough to match their whirlwind of good intention. Many people with too much grit have arrived there with a lot of "best intentions."
One thing that helps temper their path is a voice that is strong enough to call them to attention. But when that fails...and it does...people get hurt.
If you find yourself *here*—if something inside you is saying "yes, that's me" (might be now, might have been 6 months or 6 years ago)— If this is your "yes", then there is bad news and good news for you.
You may feel like you were left with no options. Nowhere to go, no one to listen, no energy for a further fight. But you have one option and it may sound like bad news, but it is in fact very good news.
Your option is sadness. Grief, sorrow, sadness and tears. If you can be safe enough with yourself to actually cry about what you lost—what in your soul got crushed under another persons' load of grit—that sorrow, those tears, are a gift.
Tears are not a last resort, although we often treat them that way. Tears are not something to avoid at all costs—even if that has been your habit.
Tears are nature's answer to the horrible things that inevitably happen and they actually have purpose and design.
Tears wash through our brains like a cleansing potion—they remove the toxic waste of the adrenaline and cortisol that came with a stressful event. And they clear the way for new pathways to emerge.
If you have been stuck in the ditches in the aftermath of a grit storm, you can begin your move out of the muck with a good bath of tears. Watch a sad movie, read a sad book, listen to a song that makes you cry— anything to get you in touch with sadness. Begin your own journey by being kind enough to yourself to acknowledge that what happened to you was not just or right—you know this because you certainly don't want it to happen to your friends or children. And be sad, truly sad that it happened to you.
Give yourself time, maybe about six months, to feel the dark feelings of loss and pain. Don't look for the gains, let them come when they decide it is time. Don't rationalize or make yourself figure out how to make this worthwhile—those things will come to you naturally and in the right order if and when you are ready.
And you will get up out of the ditch and leave the tears there as a salty pond of hope for someone else to find, when they too get hit by the grit truck with someone else's load of purpose/passion/perseverance.
You, on the other hand, are becoming a more deeply and profoundly compassionate human. You have taken the time to consider loss and pain as worthy of kindness—and you will carry this gift and the eyes to see into another's struggle with hope wherever you go.
But start here. Start with your yes. Start with yourself.
I write on how humans develop and grow through challenges we face. I've divided this into three categories--Growing Love is about relationships and how we create conditions for growth despite the inevitable challenges. Cloudburst is about grief, specifically—which is a tricky topic. We need to keep growing but pushing is the opposite of helpful. And in Dancing on Hot Sand I talk about personal inner growth in hard places—spiritual growth, without sounding religious, I hope.