Persistence pays off but it pays the BEST dividends when that persistence uses a gentle touch. Nagging and whining get nowhere. Gentle words open doors.
In my life I have been called stubborn and persistent. One is a negative while the other is positive. I often wondered about the difference. At first, I assumed it had to do with age. A child who won’t give up in stubborn, whereas an adult is persistent. I have been BOTH.
With time, I came to realize the real difference between the two. That ‘time’ includes lessons just realized today. The “stubborn” label applies when the actions taken to get the desired result are hurtful, destructive, or annoying. Nagging, whining, and begging certainly fall in this category. Dogging someone’s heels and insisting they do what you want is another for this category.
Persistence focuses on actions that are positive and are used in respectful ways. Using gentle reminders, helping with tasks along the way, using gentle speech, keeping a good attitude, and caring about those who are in the process with you fall into this category.
Let me give you a couple of examples. They will both focus on a phone call that was promised but not received.
Stubborn: As soon as the allotted time passes, you call the person who was to call you. You begin the call right away with an accusing attitude. “You were supposed to call me. I’ve been waiting by the phone all this time. I have better things to do with my time than waste it waiting on you.”
Persistent: Allows the ‘allotted time’ to pass plus a bit more. Your tone is polite and your words are gentle. “I was just calling to make certain I hadn’t missed your call. I was away from the phone for a little bit and didn’t know if I missed your call. I appreciate the time you have given me concerning this matter. I wanted to be respectful of that time and make certain I am doing my part to resolve this issue.”
In both cases, the expected call didn’t come. The stubborn attitude is accusing, resentful, and demanding. The persistent attitude is still determined to see the task through but is willing to share the burden of ‘guilt’ at not receiving the call. It also thanks the other for their time and assistance without dropping the desired end result. You can bet that the ‘persistent’ person will receive their desired outcome MUCH sooner than the ‘stubborn’ person. And, YES, I learned this the hard way; by being both!
The story Jesus told of the woman who kept going to the judge, asking for protection demonstrates this too. We don’t know if the woman was using her ‘persistent’ or ‘stubborn’ face but the judge gave in because she didn’t give up. I’m going to go out on a limb and say she was probably using ‘persistence’ with the judge. To do otherwise would anger him and he would rule against her no matter how many times she came to him. In fact, a disrespectful attitude on her part would probably get her tossed in prison.
God called Israel a stubborn and stiff-necked people. Not because they were all committed to going into the promised land but because they were constantly complaining and rebelling. They were constantly whining and blaming Moses and God for the ‘hard life’ they had to live. “You brought us out here to die! Weren’t there enough graves in Egypt? You had to bring us here instead. We have NOTHING! The people in the land are GIANTS and they are going to squish us like bugs!!!”
Joshua and Caleb were persistent. They believed EVERY WORD God gave to them and Moses. They were ready to do their part, including fighting against men FAR bigger than they were. They would NOT give up on the dream God had planned for them. The WOULD see it accomplished! “We WILL be victorious because our God fights for us. Follow Him and live! He is faithful and will complete EVERY work He has started.”
Father God, thank You for moving me beyond ‘stubborn’. I know I fall back into those patterns at times but I want with ALL MY HEART to stay in the ‘persistent’ camp. I want my words to be gentle, even when the issue is weighty. I want to help with the journey along the way instead of digging my heels in. Continue to build a ‘persistent’ heart in me. One that is ready to go wherever You lead and see the tasks through, whatever they may be. I TRUST YOU Father.