Virtue of the Week: Fortitude

The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It is a very mean and nasty place. It will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me or nobody is going to hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit, it is about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward, how much can you take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!Rocky Balboah
A smooth sea never made a skillful mariner, neither do uninterrupted prosperity and success qualify for usefulness and happiness. The storms of adversity, like those of the ocean, rouse the faculties, and excite the invention, prudence, skill and fortitude or the voyager. The martyrs of ancient times, in bracing their minds to outward calamities, acquired a loftiness of purpose and a moral heroism worth a lifetime of softness and security.Author Unknown


Kyle Maynard was born with deformed arms and legs but that never stopped him from becoming a Division I Collegiate wrestler at the University of Georgia. He has no arms beyond two rounded stumps and no legs apart from a pair of short appendages with deformed feet . Growing up, Kyle would watch other kids grip crayons between thumb and fingers, so he quickly taught himself to clutch objects between his two shortened but highly sensitive biceps – the same technique he uses today to wrangle French fries, pop open acne medicine packages and manipulate an itty-bitty cell phone. Want more? He also can type 50 words a minute. Nothing has ever come easy for Kyle but he is a man of determination. He lost his first 35 wrestling matches but he never stopped improving. When he was a senior in high school he had a record of 35 wins and 16 losses. He won ESPN’s ESPY Award for best athlete with a disability and a Courage Award from the World Sports Humanitarian Hall of Fame. He topped that off with a 3.7 grade point average while finishing 12th at the 103-pound weight class at the National High School Wrestling Championships. The next time you want to feel sorry for yourself or give in and give up when the going gets tough – think of Kyle. Kyle was and is intent on being the absolute best he can be. He does not listen when other people tell him that he cannot accomplish something. He sets his mind to it and he gives it his all. No excuses, no complaints – just sheer determination. Kyle is a man with an iron will who does not listen to his feelings when they come whining. He listens to his will and has the heart to follow through.

Pusillanimity, Magnanimity and Fortitude

Anyone who has worked with teenagers knows that the happiest and most emotionally healthy of them are those who aspire after great and honorable ends. And certainly not all of them do. It is not uncommon to see hordes of teenagers loitering every night at the local deli or mall, doing very little with their lives if anything at all. This is pusillanimity, or smallness of soul. This rather pusillanimous existence is by no means limited to teenagers. Many adults have settled for a very small existence, which usually includes but does not seem to go far beyond a house with a well manicured lawn, a nice car,, a time share perhaps, and sometimes a life that deliberately excludes children, but not pets. These things are not evil in themselves. Rather, it is the lack of aspiration towards what is worthy of great honor that is small and deficient. The emotion that suffers in this case is the emotion of hope; for the virtue of magnanimity perfects hope and involves a stretching forth of the mind to great honors. There is no emotional wholeness without such a stretching forth to the great.

The Battle Is Won By The Man With Fortitude

John Killinger retells this story from Atlantic Monthly about the days of the great western cattle rancher: “A little burro sometimes would be harnessed to a wild steed. Bucking and raging, convulsing like drunken sailors, the two would be turned loose like Laurel and Hardy to proceed out onto the desert range. They could be seen disappearing over the horizon, the great steed dragging that little burro along and throwing him about like a bag of cream puffs. They might be gone for days, but eventually they would come back. The little burro would be seen first, trotting back across the horizon, leading the submissive steed in tow. Somewhere out there on the rim of the world that steed would become exhausted from trying to get rid of the burro, and in that moment, the burro would take mastery and become the leader. And that is the way it is with the world, isn’t it? The battle is won by those with fortitude, not to the outraged; to the committed, not to those who are merely dramatic.


A man found a cocoon of a butterfly. One day a small opening appeared. He sat and watched the butterfly for several hours as it struggled to force its body through that little hole. Then it seemed to stop making any progress. It appeared as if it had gotten as far as it could, and it could go no further. So the man decided to help the butterfly. He took a pair of scissors and snipped off the remaining bit of the cocoon. The butterfly then emerged easily. But it had a swollen body and small, shriveled wings. The man continued to watch the butterfly because he expected that, at any moment, the wings would enlarge and expand to be able to support the body, which would contract in time. Neither happened! In fact, the butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around with a swollen body and shriveled wings. It never was able to fly. What the man, in his kindness and haste, did not understand was that the restricting cocoon and the struggle required for the butterfly to get through the tiny opening were God’s way of forcing fluid from the body of the butterfly into its wings so that it would be ready for flight once it achieved its freedom from the cocoon. Sometimes struggles are exactly what we need in our lives. If we were allowed to go through life without any obstacles, it would cripple us. We would not be as strong as what we could have been. We could never fly!

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