Josh Irby, a good writer and a good man, is writing an inspirational blog series based on True Grit,one of my all-time favorite books and movies. If you’ve never read True Grit: A Novel by Charles Portis, drop what you’re doing and read it right now. (Read Josh Irby’s series too, it’s awesome.)
Both versions of the movie True Grit are great, but as much as I love John Wayne (and I really love John Wayne), I like the Coen Brothers’ version with Jeff Daniels 100 times more, especially because the child Mattie Ross is played by Hailee Steinfeld, an actual child, instead of the uber-annoying forty-year old Kim Darby. Hailee Steinfeld’s Mattie has true grit.
Grit drives the best stories: The Searchers, Black Hawk Down, Tears of the Sun, Casablanca, Defiance. In a story driven by grit, justice must be served, or an opponent defeated; someone rescued or avenged; and at all costs, it will be done, or die trying. Failure is always a possibility, but quitting is never an option.
Grit is not pretty. Grit is not about technique or training; it is about knowing that there is a thing that must be done, and you will do it, and you will not be stopped. “I will see the thing done,” Mattie Ross says in True Grit, as she sets out to capture the man who killed her father.
If grit were a sport, it would be wrestling. Low glamour, high intensity, no equipment other than muscle, will and mind. In the end, a wrestler’s real opponent is himself–will he give in to weakness and the natural desire to quit? Or will he “hold on when there is nothing in him except the will which says to him ‘hold on”? (Rudyard Kipling, If.)
Grit is not morally ambiguous, but it answers to a higher law, and it may bend the rules, although never break them. Grit is about sacrifice, and usually about privation. Grit cares little for glory and nothing about fame; it cares everything for honor and keeping promises. Long after the quest for glory has burnt out its pitiful little flame, grit will still be marching on, driven by duty, loyalty, honor and a deep, abiding faith that there is a battle between good and evil, and good must win.
Who has (or had) grit? Winston Churchill is the icon of grit in his indefatigable quest to beat the Nazis (“Never, never, never, never give in”) and probably the only politician who could make my list. George Washington, certainly. St. Paul. Leonidas. Henry V.
I don’t know if I have grit, and maybe not knowing means I don’t have it. Maybe I won’t know until my testing time comes. But that time comes for each of us, sooner or later. I hope I am ready.
Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in, except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy. Winston Churchill
Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Hebrews 12:1-2
Who do you think has grit? Do you? Please share in the comments, I’d love to hear what you think!