The Virtue of Perseverance

Fr. Ralph Pfau, The Golden Books

Recovery is the undertaking of a lifetime, one that is filled, as life always is, with a never-ending series of challenges, big and small. Hence the need for perseverance, the virtue which enables us to stick steadfastly to our objective over the long haul whatever the difficulties or obstacles in our path.

Perseverance is essential to the self-examination of Steps 4 and 10 in particular. In Step 4 we are doing an inventory of our entire life, and we have to keep moving ahead and surmount a number of internal obstacles (dishonesty, fear, guilt, shame, pride) if we are to be searching and thorough and do more than merely touch the surface and leave the job half done.

In Step 10 we continue, day in and day out, to examine ourselves, we continue to admit our wrongs, we continue to surrender them, we continue to ask for their removal, we continue to make amends.

We continue to forgive, no matter how many times we have been wronged. We continue to hope, even when all seems bleak. We continue to pray, even when no one appears to be listening. And we continue to say thank you, at all times and in all things, "doing what we know to be good for us."

[Image: Fr. Ralph Pfau, aka "John Doe," author of The Golden Books; believed to be first Roman Catholic priest to get sober in AA (Indianapolis, 11/10/41).]  

Big Book"Both you and [your sponsee] must walk day by day in the path of spiritual progress. If you persist,* remarkable things will happen. . . . Follow the dictates of a Higher Power and you will presently live in a wonderful world, no matter what your present circumstances." – Big Book   

12&12"Step Four is our vigorous and painstaking effort to discover what these liabilities in us have been, and are . . . [so that] we can move toward their correction. Without a willing and persistent* effort to do this, there can be little sobriety or contentment for us." – 12&12   

Life Recovery Bible"And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we shall reap, if we do not give up." – Galatians 6:9
"Love always perseveres." – 1 Cor 13:7   

"If we are facing in the right direction, all we have to do is keep on walking." – Buddhist saying   

"As long as you live, keep learning how to live." – Seneca   

"Dripping water hollows out stone, not through force but through persistence." – Ovid

"The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones." – Confucius

Albert Einstein
"It is not that I'm so smart. But I stay with the questions much longer." – Albert Einstein  

"The race is not always to the swift, but to those who keep on running." – Anonymous

Samuel Johnson
"Great works are performed, not by strength, but by perseverance." – Samuel Johnson   

Franklin D. Roosevelt
"To reach a port we must set sail. Sail, not tie an anchor. Sail, not drift." – Franklin D. Roosevelt   

"The greatest oak was once a little nut who held its ground." – Anonymous 

Earl Nightingale"Don't let the fear of the time it will take to accomplish something stand in the way of your doing it. The time will pass anyway; we might just as well put that passing time to the best possible use." – Earl Nightingale

Walter Elliott
"Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after another." – Walter Elliott   

Nelson Mandela"I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can only rest for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended." – Nelson Mandela  

"In order to get from what was to what will be, you must go through what is." – Anonymous 

Martin Luther
"Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree." – Martin Luther   

Thomas Edison
"The three great essentials to achieve anything worthwhile are, first, hard work; second, stick-to-itiveness; third, common sense." – Thomas Edison

Mary Anne Radmacher
"Courage does not always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, 'I will try again tomorrow.'"– Mary Anne Radmacher  

Norman Vincent Peale"If you want a quality, act as if you already have it. If you want to be courageous, act as if you were—and as you act and persevere in acting, so you tend to become." – Norman Vincent Peale

Christina Rossetti
"Does the road wind up-hill all the way? Yes, to the very end." – Christina Rossetti  

H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
"Let perseverance be your engine and hope your fuel." – H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Winston Churchill
"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts." – Winston Churchill  

Dale Carnegie
"Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all." – Dale Carnegie  

"I may not be there yet, but I'm closer than I was yesterday." – Anonymous   

Richard L. Evans
"Don't let life discourage you; everyone who got where he is had to begin where he was." – Richard L. Evans   

Joseph Roux
"At first we hope too much; later on, not enough." – Joseph Roux   

Henri Cartier-Bresson
"Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst." – Henri Cartier-Bresson   

James A. Michener
"Character consists of what you do on the third and fourth tries." – James A. Michener  

Daily Reflections"Discouragement is a warning signal that I may have wandered across the God line. The secret of fulfilling my potential is in acknowledging my limitations and believing that time is a gift, not a threat." – A.A.’s Daily Reflections  

Twenty-Four Hours a Day "Spiritual development is achieved by daily persistence in living the way [I] believe God wants [me] to live . . . I pray that I may persist day by day in gaining spiritual experience. I pray that I may make this a lifetime work." – Twenty-four Hours a Day   

PTP123"Working Step 3 is a daily endeavor, a matter of following a sustained course of action guided by the principles it sets down. It requires persistent effort and exertion and, like all the Steps, calls upon the virtue of perseverance." – PTP123   

PTP4"Recovery is the undertaking of a lifetime, one that is filled, as life always is, with a never-ending series of detours, challenges, pitfalls, and setbacks. Hence the need for perseverance, the virtue that enables us to stick steadfastly to our objective over the long haul, whatever the difficulties or obstacles in our path."
– PTP4

Practice These: Perseverance - Liane Cordes
Practice These: Perseverance - Vincent van Gogh

* Note: The Big Book and 12&12 sometimes use persistence synonymously with perseverance and sometimes not. This is because, unlike perseverance, persistence can be exercised for wrong reasons and toward wrong ends (as some of the passages show). The meanings of persistence and perseverance are not coextensive. 

For more PTP123 passages on perseverance, see pp. 13 and 26. For PTP4 passages, see, among others, pp. 142, 197, 223, 264, 265, 298, 314, 376, 387, 396, 398, 404; as intellectual virtue, 380;  as differing from  persistence, 408–410. For more Big Book and 12&12 passages, click on and search perseverance and persistence and their cognates. On this site, see In All Our Affairs: Practicing Patience and The Virtue of Courage.  

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