Updated: Jun 27, 2021
John Wayne's definition of True Grit:
"True Grit is making a decision and standing by it, doing what must be done. No moral man can have peace of mind if he leaves undone what he knows he should have done."
Mattie needed a man with “true grit” to help her accomplish a challenging task. She was 14 and a tough country gal that was hunting down the man who killed her father. She needed someone rugged, courageous, determined, fearless, and even a little bit mean. She needed a man with grit. That man, turned out to be John Wayne. He accomplished the task, but not without a few difficulties. In the end he had won her respect. Mattie, too, had Grit.
So, what is “grit” any way? And how do you know if someone’s got it? The dictionary describes “grit” as having an “indomitable spirit; unconquerable, untamed, a firmness of character”. Someone with grit does not quit when things get tough. They know what they need to do and they do it, regardless of the challenges they must face. It’s not just enduring difficult circumstances, but growing through it, and all the while maintain an honorable character.
Some years back I worked at a jobsite construction office. I watched in awe one day as the construction team came into the office to sign out at the end of the workday. The dust from the 60-mile per hour winds was caked in their hair and clothes. Every wrinkle and pore on their faces was filled with dust. I couldn’t help but respect them for their “grit” and the undaunted spirit it took to work under such stressful conditions without complaint.
Other days they endured temperatures below freezing. They would wrap themselves in so many layers of clothes it became difficult to move. A subcontractor came into the office one day and I asked him how he could work in such weather, he just shrugged his shoulders and said, “Gotta get the job done”. They don’t stop to think of the body-dishonoring conditions they had to work under. They just do what it takes. I’m not sure if it’s determination or dedication that keeps them going. Or maybe it’s desperation and dementia. (Just kidding Guys!)
During one of those work days I asked:
So why did you choose this line of work?
“It was easy to get into”
“I like working outside”
“The pay’s good”
“I like building things, I like creating”
“I was young and dumb and I in a hurry to make money.”
What goes through your mind when the weather is harsh? Do you think about changing professions?
“As long as my feet stay dry I don’t mind it.”
“I’m dedicated to my family, so I do whatever it takes and try not to think about the conditions.”
If you want to know what “real men” are like, spend some time on a construction site. They cuss; they spit. Sex is their favorite topic of conversation and they like to end the day with a nice cold beer. They’re not afraid to work hard and get dirty. They can be polite and gentlemanly when they need to. They came to my rescue more than once and I felt safe and protected the fourteen months I worked with them. One supervisor said: “We’re an earthy bunch.” And that they are.
To strap on a tool belt, hard hats and boots; to work in the trenches or a rooftop in the sweltering heat; to drive nails and lay conduit when your fingers are numb from the cold, and do it all with a good attitude takes grit, true grit.
The above was originally written in 1998 when I worked as a construction secretary. I was studying my current profession at the time, but needed to keep a roof over our heads and a pot of soup on the stove, when that job literally fell into my lap. How I got that job is a story all on its own and I have always been grateful for it.
Through the years I have have also learned to respect and honor those that have true grit as they face life’s challenges. We endure loss of jobs. Homelessness. Divorce. Death of loved ones. Abuse. Prejudice. Hatred. Insults. Poverty. Mistakes from our own poor judgments. We blame ourselves. Blame others. Blame God. Blame the Devil.
I believe the time will come when a Loving God says “Enough”. But in the mean time, this world is our current reality and we must learn how to live in it with a lot of grit and a bit of grace.