If there is a set of gifts you could give and model for your children, I would venture to say that fortitude and perseverance rank up there in the top five. Perseverance is steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success. Fortitude is courage in the face of pain or adversity. We know that our children are going to need both to be successful in life, and in faith. It’s important to share with your children the times when you struggle with any detail of life, and then push forward. Today’s generations struggle with entitlement and greed. They want to be praised when praise has not been earned. They want financial gifts instead of earning a wage. They want respect and trust when they have done very little to achieve it.
There are plenty of positive role models available to demonstrate what can be accomplished with this steadfast hard work in any area of life. I will start with my own first lesson that I can remember. I started as the slowest person on the swim team when I was 11 turning 12. All I wanted to do was to earn a ribbon at a meet. I was discouraged after the first meet. I don’t remember earning anything at that meet. My mom told me something, and I actually listened. She said, “All you have to do is to beat the next slowest person.” Now that was a bite-size increment that I could wrap my energy around. All I had to do was beat the next slowest person? I put in a bit more effort that week at swim practice. I pushed myself. At the next meet, I did beat that girl. There would be NO going backwards from that moment on. I kept beating that next slowest girl until by the end of the next summer I was the fastest girl on the team. I never cut corners at workout. I also put in my full workout and effort. Within 2-3 years I was swimming at the junior Olympics. (unfortunately I was very sick at the time and didn’t get far) By my sophomore year of high school I earned the MVP for the team, and started breaking league records. I continued with my competitive swimming until I had graduated high school. When I was 16 years old I started teaching swimming, and loved passing those gifts on to children and adults. God can open so many doors when we just put in the effort, and agree to suffer a little along the way.
By earning my way and slowly seeing myself improve, I earned a confidence and a trust in what perseverance and fortitude could do in my life. I learned that little setbacks would not hold me back. That inner strength had to come from me. I had to overcome my own self-doubt by pushing forward despite uncertainty. I had to experience pain and fatigue. I took the little nuggets of encouragement from whomever would offer them. Maybe they weren’t even words of encouragement, maybe it was a suggestion on who to swim harder or turn faster. Earning trophies definitely was my encouragement.
Later on you learn that it is more than by your own volition that you are able to accomplish these things. You must pray for the gifts of fortitude and perseverance, and you must apply them to more than self glorification or personal goals. You start working towards the great good. Maybe you start a non-profit. Maybe you are supporting your family by working outside the home. You are working and persevering through the difficult challenges of changing economies, and difficult personalities at work. Maybe you are serving your country in the military or as a first responder. Maybe you work in healthcare and serving those in pain and illness.
Let’s take this one step further and remember that you are going to need to apply these virtues to your prayer life. You are not always going to feel like going to Mass or praying. Just like working out, this is a muscle that must be exercised and encouraged in yourself and your children. Confidence may come in the form of answered prayers, or from community support, or in a deep personal relationship with Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the Virgin Mary, and/or other Saints.
In these photos my children are climbing new and complicated routes. They were timid at first on some of them, especially the tall blocks without handles. Each time they did it, they were able to go faster and to stand a little more upright. They started crawling up them, and gradually kneeling, and finally stepping from one to the other. Once they trusted their own abilities and the strength of the climbing belay that would catch them, their confidence exploded. Let us exercise, and grow in strength and confidence in our faith, and teach our children these crucial virtues.
Copyright 2017 Marya Jauregui