Mahatma Gandhi claimed to have never made even a minor decision without prayer. Gandhi was known best as an Indian nationalist and spiritual leader, but he was also a man of rare courage. He developed the practice of nonviolent disobedience that eventually forced Great Britain to grant India’s independence.|
He spoke often about spirituality and prayer. He told about traveling to South Africa to oppose a law there directed expressly against Indians. His ship was met by a hostile mob and he was advised to stay on board. They had come, he was told, with the express intention of lynching him. Gandhi said of the incident: “I went ashore nevertheless. I was stoned and kicked and beaten a good deal; but I had not prayed for safety, but for the courage to face the mob, and that courage came and did not fail me.”
Gandhi preferred courage over safety. If accomplishing his goals put him in the way of danger, then he wanted to face that danger bravely. His prayer was to receive enough courage to do what needed to be done, not to live his life free from harm.
Sometimes it just makes sense to quit trying and move on to something else. Anyone who has been in a destructive relationship or a high-stress job that has taken a personal toll knows what I am talking about. However, there are also times when we need to persist – to keep trying. My experience tells me that quitting too soon is the greater problem. And the reason is simple: it is usually easier to give something up than to stay with it.
I have spoken with many people who said to me, “I used to take music lessons when I was a child. I regret the fact that I quit too soon. I wish I knew how to play the piano today.” I have never talked with an adult who said, “I took music lessons when I was a child. I regret the fact that I didn’t quit sooner.”
Of course, it is not about music lessons...it is about knowing, when things are rough, whether to keep going or to throw it in. How many books were never written because someone quit too soon? How many relationships died prematurely and how many dreams never bore fruit because someone gave them up?
There are good times to leave a job, to move on to a new relationship or to quit pounding on the same old nail that just won't budge. But too often we give in to the temptation to quit too early. We don't stick around long enough to see what might happen if we persevered just a bit longer.
I don’t think that Albert Einstein had the problem of quitting too early. “It’s not that I am so smart” he famously said, “it’s just that I stay with problems longer.” He understood the value of not giving up too soon – and that alone shows how smart he really was.
I will probably never begin to understand the physics of the universe like Dr. Einstein, but it does not take a genius to know when it is not yet time to quit. Success is often just the result of staying with problems a little longer. And even I can do that. So, I, too, have come to see that the better prayer is for courage to face whatever life may bring. And in some place deep inside me, I am not only convinced that the courage will come and not fail me, but that it will be enough. Always enough.