Being a Bicolano, I was accustomed to storms. We would always make preparations — stock up on food, candles, water, and other necessary supplies. My dad would check the roof, electric outlets. When the storm has passed, my mom would scoot us over to help in cleaning up the house. Sure, the howling winds and heavy downpour (as well as the occasional thunder and lightning) would seem frightful — but we were safe. We were at peace in the comforts and security of our home.
But not all storms are the same. Aside from the family storm that took us unaware, we were also exposed to stronger storms which defied my memory and personal anticipations. I remember the first time I had to wade across a waist-high flood when I was in Grade 6 — and we lost almost all our precious family photo albums. And when I was a college freshman, I had to face another city-wide flood… only this time, I was alone.
Yet, throughout all these storms — both natural and emotional — I thank God for teaching me a very important be attitude: fortitude.
It’s not easy to develop fortitude. In fact, it’s probably the most painful of all the be attitudes. It doesn’t simply come from reading something, or observing someone — although such an attitude can somehow be inculcated through words of encouragement. And fortitude doesn’t simply grow overnight. Actually, it doesn’t even naturally grow with each experience; some people may even show less fortitude with each depressing wave of trouble in life.
So how does one acquire and build fortitude? How does it differ with simply being courageous?
A lot of people have been taking courage for granted. People talk about having courage to talk to a girl and ask her out. Or making a risky career shift. Or taking the next step and proposing for an engagement/wedding. We’d like to think squashing a spider or a cockroach takes a lot of courage, or even chasing a mouse. We’ve seen it in TV shows — finding courage to eat strange food, going to unimaginable places, performing crazy stunts. And really, these are courageous people.
But there are moments in life where you can’t back out or turn down a challenge. You don’t have room to think, plan, prepare. Unexpected circumstances come without warning, situations where we wish we can just run or hide away from. Like sudden death among family or friends, like natural calamities, tragic accidents, traumatic experiences, and other alarming crises.
That’s when fortitude counts the most.
Some describe fortitude as courage in pain or adversity. A quality of spirit that enables you to face danger or pain without showing fear. It is also defined as a strength and firmness of mind (and emotion) that enables a person to encounter danger, bear pain or adversity with courage, or even face temptation. Fortitude is about facing things head on when others would simply avoid or go along with it — and that’s not easy or simple. We like avoiding and preventing danger. In fact, it is smart to simply cancel out the danger. But it’s not possible all the time. When danger strikes, we can’t simply point fingers and start blaming who allowed the danger to exist; we need to act, even to the cost of our own sacrifice.
In the same way, we can’t simply shy away from pain, or hope to alleviate it all the time. Some hurts can’t be healed with medicine or time — and it takes more than courage to live through and with the pain, accepting its existence yet resisting the limitations it imposes on us. Lastly, there is fortitude in saying no to temptations of any kind. And we all have our weaknesses to deny — a temptation to lie, to make unwise compromises, to cheat, to take wrong advantage, to take boastful and arrogant pride. It can be crushing, excruciating to deny ourselves of these pleasurable temptations — to the point that we would even circumvent our own moral principles and justify doing it. And it’s even more painful to expose these weaknesses to other people — to humble ourselves in admitting the reality of our own spiritual struggles. Fortitude is about having the courage to do the right thing, even when they’re not the easiest things to do.
And a lot of these things don’t just go away in a blink, when the dawn comes, or even after years of struggling. That’s why I particularly love this simple description: fortitude is resolute endurance. Fortitude requires one’s strong, committed resolve to endure. It’s about gritting your gnashing teeth, clenching your clammy fists, fighting back the clamoring tears, stiffening your weakened knees, fortifying your raging thoughts — until the battle is won, or until the last dreg of your feeble strength is gone.
Despite being one of the most difficult be attitude, fortitude is also the most wonderful. Because fortitude is an attitude that focuses on hope beyond despair, of smiles beyond the tears, of beauty beyond destruction, of possibilities beyond chaos, of promises beyond misery, of tomorrows beyond the darkness. And though we may not last to enjoy these things — we can always inspire the same fortitude in others who go through the same troubles, giving them the strength and courage to press on against the hopelessness of our times, and believe in an amazingly beautiful future in the time to come.
So stand. Stand with fortitude. Remain standing and believing.
• • •
Want to know more about the be attitudes? Stay updated on the series:
#0 — Introduction
#1 — Gratitude
#3 — Certitude
#4 — Solicitude
#5 — Promptitude
#6 — Fortitude
#7 — Vicissitude
#8 — Quietude & Solitude