Building Relational Grit

Work, husband, kids, grandkids, parents, friends, cousins, church family, neighbors? There are just so many people and I’m trying to be perfect in all of these relationships, except I am NOT. Many of these interactions are sticky, some like a big glob of sap stuck to the bottom of your shoe and some like that tiny drop of honey on the counter that you just set your forearm down on.

Conflict is unavoidable (maybe more so for me, because I have a tendency to say the wrong thing at the wrong time on a regular basis.)

My gut reaction is to lay down and die. Conflict happens, and my first thought is that all is lost and I am a failure or the other person is a failure, and I might as well just give up. But I’ve been learning that this mantra is straight from the Father of Lies.

“Well, you really blew that,” he whispers in my ear, and I have fallen for his all-is-lost line so many times.

But in the last few years, I’ve been learning to step back from relational failure, regroup, pray, think, and then move back in toward that person again, even though it feel all kinds of awkward and compounding the failure seems highly likely. Angela Duckworth, in her book Grit, talks about the need to struggle a little bit longer in order to master something. Sometimes we give up too soon, when just a little bit more grit and willingness to struggle in the right direction would have gotten us where we were hoping to be. And wow have I seen that to be true relationally.

It reminds me of when we hiked Scenic Point in Glacier National Park years ago. It was an elevation gain of 2,300 feet, and I mostly thought I was going to die. (Hiking wimp.) The hardest part of that hike for me was mental, because none of us had been there before, and there were no markers to let you know where you were on the trail. We had no idea when we would actually reach the glories of scenic point. Seeing my despair, Matt would point to a rock on the trail ahead and say, “Can you just make it to this next rock?” Jayme and I were exhausted and had blisters on our feet. At one point, we talked about turning around, because we didn’t feel like we could go any further. Matt finally said, “Let’s just get around this one more bend, and if we haven’t arrived by then, we’ll turn around and head home.” Well, we limped around that bend, and there was scenic point! We had been only a few hundred yards away from the reward but had almost turned back.

That is what it’s like in relationships. Sometimes you feel like you’ve struggled so long, with no hope of change, or that things have been so botched between you and the other person that how in the world could it ever be better? But so often it’s just that one more encounter that makes the difference–that one more apology or one more expression of love or one more statement of humility or sometimes one more hard-but-necessary conversation that makes all of the difference.

And grit means praying, praying, praying–confessing your part in the mess and then asking for wisdom, because how in the world can we possibly know how to live in the complexity of relationships without Jesus giving us specific wisdom for loving specific people? How can we discern where our fault ends and the other person’s fault begins, without Jesus helping us see the truth? And for sure there’s no way on this earth we can forgive the other person, without being constantly on our knees at the cross, eating the bread and drinking the wine as reminders of how much Jesus forgave in our direction, in order for us to be in relationship with him.

Of course, as we learn in Ecclesiastes, there’s a time for everything. There’s a time to speak up and a time to be quiet. There’s a time to hold on and a time to let go. But I think grit means that we’re willing to keep moving forward prayerfully in relationship, until Jesus himself says, “Okay, time to just step back and be still now and put that person in my hands. You’ve done everything you can do.” He is the only one with wisdom enough to help us know when it truly is time to stop pressing in toward that person in relationship.

I have a dear friend who is the master of relational perseverance. She just doesn’t give up. If the relationship is hard and messy and when other people would run the other way, she’s the one who’s running toward the person. She keeps initiating conversations–keeps trying to understand and work things out. I’m hoping to be like her when I grow up.

Really, it would be nice to be perfect so that all would be sunshine with all of my people at all times, and I would never be stupid or thoughtless or say the absolutely worst thing at the worst possible time. Alas, I am flawed. But Jesus, filled to the brim and overflowing with die-hard relational grit, is at work in me. So, I keep trying with his help.

I hope you’ll keep trying with your people. Maybe you’re only a few hundred yards away from amazing.


  1. I am grateful to God for providing these words for me today. Thank you, Christy, for your writing.

  2. Linda Evans says:

    Thank you for reminding me that we are human and because of that we are all subject in inperfectionism (is that a word)? I always say and do the wrong thing and people misunderstand me. I have to remind myself that I am a good person, even though others don’t perceive me as a “whole” person, just the bits of me and think they know me.

  3. Wow now how did you know I would need EXACTLY this today?! Lol 🙂 Thanks for this timely posting.

    1. It is so good when Jesus sees where we are and gives us exactly what we need. He always provides a well-timed help!

  4. Megha Rai says:

    Hi Christy,
    Lord is amazing. I had been struggling with relationship wisdom from quite some time but due to busy life, hectic schedules and so much on my plate kids, family, work, career, I was just unable to stop and pray to lord for guidance. But today my soul was so heavy that I couldn’t move a step further and in my desperation I cried out to Lord to send me wisdom, send me some words to make me feel not so worse. I happen to reach your blog today and understood this blog was my answer to the specific prayer that I prayed today. The lord we serve us real and alive and always listening. My faith has increased a step further to the most amazing lord.

    1. Jesus is so good, to answer our desperate prayers. I’m glad he encouraged you!!

  5. I really appreciate your post. This topic is a hard and raw topic that many of us are living with in our lives. Thank you for your encouraging positive direction for perseverance, continual prayers and giving it all to God.

  6. Lynn Wawrzewski says:

    Thank you for these thoughts! It was just what I needed today!

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