“Don’t worry Dad, I’m a Schmotzer and Schmotzer’s never quit.”
So said my four-year-old granddaughter to her dad, my son, when recently being instructed to “really” clean her room.
My first response to hearing the story was I wish my Dad could have heard it. He would have loved that his great-grandchild wasn’t a “quitter.” Dad was no nonsense. Never give up was S.O.P. I could almost hear him, “Yep, she’s a Schmotzer.”
Personally I was proud she had learned endurance from her parents and I considered that a fine legacy. Tenacity is one of my high values and I hope my family shares it. I love the idea that at a young age she has a beginning awareness of the importance of seeing things through to the finish.
I eventually got off the cloud of thinking my granddaughter had it all figured out and was ready to meet any goal and overcome every challenge that life will bring. Reality check: she’s four and probably parroting something her parents said. It’s something positive, but something that will take years to learn, and more to live out.
Then I thought about the danger of the simplistic motto, “Never quit.” Remember the whisper, “There is a time for everything…”
As I thought about quitting, and my tendency to think not quitting is the best option, I realized that my interactions with quitting have been varied in importance and value.
Here are some of my life “quitting” stories and ideas:
The real deal. My Dad was a nail biter — actually, a chewer. Chewed ‘til they bled. I followed suit, only I was more of a biter. Being filled with anxious energy, and choosing not to smoke, chewing or biting your nails seemed a good option. One day in my teens I decided I no longer wanted to continue the habit. I made a decision and quit. This might be an example of why some people compliment me on my strength of discipline. I, though, can think of too many things I have wished to quit or change that still refuse to die or disappear.
Glad we keep choosing not to quit. Personally I am thankful for numerous times my wife and I have refused the pressure to crumble or the lure of an easy way out in our marriage. I am glad Connie and I have pushed through difficulties that could have buried us. Each day is an opportunity, a challenge and a choice.
Too stubborn for my own good. From city league basketball to long distance races, I have participated in athletic activities suspecting, and maybe at times knowing, I was injured. I had good reasons. Others were counting on me, I had made a commitment or set a goal and I needed to finish what I started. Fortunately I never had a major sports injury, many minor ones — but that may be more a gift of grace than making the best choice.
Giving up too soon. Honesty indicates there are times I have quit when something better was possible. Relationships come to mind — the times I have “had enough” and walked away. Sometimes it has been overt and direct; usually it has been more of a silent drift.
Not soon enough? There are situations in which I may not have quit soon enough. I look back at certain job situations and wonder why I didn’t leave sooner. Why did I stay? Great question. It may have something to do with my inner hard wiring. I am highly loyal. When I get involved with people I want to stay involved. I want to see projects through, and there is always something in process.
My best hope in dealing with “quitting” is to learn to live the tension. There are times when emotions must be ignored and commitments fulfilled. Short-term gratification may need to be trumped by long-term goals. There are other times when quitting and letting go are the best options.
Refusing to quit can be a form of arrogance that is more about personal reputation than accomplishments and commitments. The hope is that I am growing in wisdom that enables me to make decisions and take action based more on matters of greater importance than my petty ego.
“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became (an adult), I put the ways of childhood behind me.” Children are taught concrete structures and systems, black and white, right and wrong for safety and protection. These can serve us well for the start-up phase of life. At the same time they can constrain and imprison us as adults. Being adult is more about living in the muddled world of options, choices and nuance.
Life is about growing in wisdom so we can know when to go forward with tenacity and when to cut our losses. It is being able to quit, or not quit, and live with the consequences in the face of ambiguity or a lack of simplistic clarity about our choices and related actions.