This week we celebrated Memorial Day. And what a festive day it is! Marking the first day of summer, filled with bright colors, patriotic parades, and cookouts.
A day to remember.
Memorial Day was established to remember the soldiers who died to win and maintain the freedom we enjoy in this country. Originally called Decoration Day, it was a day where people decorated the soldiers’ graves with flowers and ribbons to remember their sacrifice.
It is important to remember and appreciate their sacrifice. Without gratitude and a full understanding of the gift we have been given, we can take it for granted. Give away our freedom to gain comfort or security.
Today let’s go back to the Civil War, and think not about their heroism as an abstraction. Let’s think about the individual farmers, pastors, teachers and businessmen who fought in this horrific and deadly war. People with names and loved ones. Think about those everyday people who volunteered and sacrificed their lives and livelihoods. No matter what our position on the war itself, (or any war for that matter), we can learn something from these men. What kept them going through some extraordinarily difficult conditions, as they fought their fellow countrymen in their own backyards?
The authors of Brittanica Blog list several motivating factors. As I read through this article, I saw three battle-tested attributes that we can employ to persist through our own difficult times.
The volunteers were a highly educated people with strong belief that what they were doing was right. On both sides. As the Brittanica Blog states, “Confederates professed to fight for liberty and independence from what they considered a tyrannical government; Unionists fought to preserve the nation created by the founders from dismemberment and destruction.”
When we struggle through difficult times, it helps to remind ourselves of what we believe in. Conviction doesn’t have to be rigid dogma. There is room for new information and course correction. But an underlying conviction helps us persevere.
It may be truth about ourselves and our abilities. It may be faith in God. It may be the cause for which we are fighting. We will only be able to persist to the extent of our conviction.
War is stressful. Soldiers spend a lot of the time afraid, both while fighting and waiting to fight. Many of these soldiers used stress, fear and rage to develop almost super-human strength. This is a common side-effect of the stress response. That adrenalin rush enables us to do things we might not otherwise be able to do. We’ve all heard stories of people lifting a car that was crushing someone, punching an alligator, or pulling someone out of a sinking ship.
We can use stress during difficult times to power through, use our brain’s own chemistry to persist and overcome. It helps to notice our own personal stress response so we can recognize it when it comes. And when it does, embrace it and use it to help us persevere.
Many of the volunteers came from the same community and fought together. This strong bond of community caused them to overcome fear and sacrifice themselves for the good of their comrades. There were several reasons for this. They didn’t want to let the others down. They didn’t want to go home with a bad reputation. They didn’t want to tarnish their community’s name. Though they wouldn’t necessarily sacrifice themselves for someone they barely knew, they were more than willing to go the distance for those with whom they had a close bond.
We too can offer and experience support within a strong community. It is easier to give up when we are alone. Persistence is enhanced when we have someone encouraging and helping us forward. People who have our back. Who will sacrifice with and for us.
Are you struggling with something right now? If so, think about how you can use these three attributes to persist in the tough times.
Conviction – speak truth into your life several times a day if you have to. Do not let lies or indecision keep you stuck.
Chemistry – use the stress response to your advantage. Employ stress-management techniques to keep stress at the optimal level between good stress and distress.
Community – determine who can go to battle with you. Who you trust the most. Keep in touch with those people. Be willing to sacrifice for them even as they are willing to sacrifice for you.
If you know someone who is struggling, please share this post with them by using the e-mail or social media buttons. If you have a story of persistence that you’d like to share, please do so in the comments. We all learn and grow from your sharing.
Remember Memorial Day!
Remembering all who died while serving in our country's armed forces.