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The Ugly Side of Grit (and the Virtue of Leaving)

To my detriment, I’ve never been a quitter. In all things there is an end, but for most of my life I’ve rejected/ignored/pushed way past those natural endings. I fundamentally don’t believe in giving up, and while this sounds like a virtue, those of you who have carried the weight of a dead project/relationship/responsibility on your back know just how self-destructive a belief it can be. It’s stubborn, and simultaneously disrespectful and self-righteous. It says “I don’t need anybody or anything to make this happen. I can carry this relationship/project/responsibility on my own,” which—while possible for a time—is no way to live your entire life. (There are better uses for one’s time and talent than slogging through an unworthy situation.)

Primarily my attitude has to do with how I self-identify as someone of exceptional grit and determination. I grew up in very rough circumstances, so my whole life I’ve known myself as an uncrushable force, an overcomer. I’m grateful for that identity as it got me through a couple of challenging decades, but somehow, even though my life is entirely safe and healthy now, I hadn’t shed that primary identity as bulldozer of adversity, and what used to be my saving grace slowly became the single biggest drain on my life.

This is a recent realization for me. It came to a head a couple of months ago, when I found myself in a situation at work that summoned my grit/determination response, except this time I had an epiphany: just because you can make it through a circumstance doesn’t mean you should, and you certainly aren’t obligated to do so. Not every circumstance is worth the expense of resources and energy it takes to make it through the other side. (It helps me to think in terms of value exchange.) I had to ask myself “am I getting enough value from this experience to make toughing it out worth it?”

And for the first time in my life, I chose to respect myself enough to do the healthy thing and remove myself from the situation, rather than grit my teeth and bear it, and oh my gosh was it uncomfortable…at first. Like I said, I fundamentally believe in never giving up, but now in my ripe old 31 years I’m beginning to see the shades of grey between the healthy assertion of grit, and the cowardice of bring ruled by one’s own self-righteousness.

So 40 days ago I chose to swallow my self-righteousness and honor my time and talent by resigning. It was one of the most uncomfortable circumstances of my adult life, and I am so grateful for having gone through it. I won’t go into the details, but I want to take a moment to recognize some of the good the came out of the ugliness:

  • I had the opportunity to grow an already beautiful friendship with a coworker. She’s a light in our world, and during this time of stress she came right by my side and supported me. I don’t have a sister, and for all intents and purposes I don’t have a mother, but this woman shows me what a sister and mother can look like in my life. She’s a beautiful human. When I read that we’re made in God’s image, I think of people like her.
  • I had the opportunity to know what it means to need fellowship with God. I was so messed up about this situation you guys. I don’t like to dwell on the negative, so I tend to understate it, but believe me when I say that I was a wreck. I wasn’t sleeping, I couldn’t eat, I had an ulcer. It was eating me up from the inside. And you know what’s awesome? I got to experience firsthand that if you cry out to God in your need, and in your fear, and in your pain, he will meet you with a more than matching portion of his strength and mercy and grace and sweet relief. You can trust him.
  • It made for an amazingly seamless transition to me running our home business (which I haven’t told you about yet). More on that another day.
  • I have bandwidth that I never would have carved out for myself. In my first week off I built a raised garden bed, and now we have a bountiful vegetable garden! And I’m reading for pleasure, simplifying/organizing our home, cooking six meals a week…I can’t even believe this is my life.
  • We can keep Ellie at her amazing school! (Ellie goes to a hybrid classical homeschool. She spends three days a week at SLOCA, and two days homeschooling with me. It’s THE BEST!)
  • Our marriage is the best it’s ever been. I’m so stinking in love. We’re disgusting, y’all.
  • I grew. Thank God, I grew. I’m a nasty combination of stubborn and self-righteous, but I’m changing.

There’s a ton more, and a ton more to the story, but for now that’s that. I’m officially a work-at-home, classical homeschooling mom. Can you believe it? (My 21 year old self thinks I’m THE WORST, hahaha.) You’ll be seeing me around these parts more often beginning next week, which is exciting. I have some changes I want to make around here, and I’m looking forward to talking them through with y’all.

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