I am publishing an article in Positive Psychology News Daily that is my nomination for the 25th character strength. In their earlier work, Peterson and Seligman identified 24 character strengths that are known around the world and across time. But of course there’s no magic to the number 24. There could be 25 character strengths, or 26, or …
My nomination belongs with the virtue Courage, which currently includes Bravery, Persistence, Integrity, and Vitality. I believe it should also include the strength of Endurance — the way people respond to things they cannot change.
One of the criteria for a character strength is ubiquity, that it is recognized in different cultures and over long history. I had collected the following examples to illustrate endurance, patience and acceptance across time and place. They don’t fit in the PPND article, so I’m including them here as an appendix.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “When Allah desires good for someone, He tries him with hardships.” [Sahîh al-Bukhârî] … In fact, the many afflictions that may beset a person are incalculable. …All of these afflictions, if endured patiently by the believer, are a means of attaining Allah’s forgiveness as well as His reward.
“The cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?” John xvii.11
Endurance is one of the most difficult disciplines, but it is to the one who endures that the final victory comes. – Buddha (Gautama Buddha)
Ahimsa or non-violence is the most important virtue. That is the reason why Patanjali Maharshi has placed it first in Yama. Practice of Ahimsa must be in thought, word and deed. Practice of Ahimsa is not impotence or cowardice or weakness. It is the highest type of heroism. The practice demands immense patience, forbearance and endurance, infinite inner spiritual strength and gigantic will-power.
He conquers who endures. Persius (Aulus Persius Flaccus)
This suffering is all part of what God has called you to. Christ, who suffered for you, is your example. Follow in his steps. 1 Peter 2:20-21
It is better to be patient than powerful; it is better to have self-control than to conquer a city. Proverbs 16:32
Endurance is patience concentrated. Thomas Carlyle
Not in the achievement, but in the endurance of the human soul, does it show its divine grandeur and its alliance with the infinite God. Edwin Hubbell Chapin
Wounds and hardships provoke our courage, and when our fortunes are at the lowest, our wits and minds are commonly at the best. Pierre Charron, French philosopher and theologian, 1541-1603.
I learned from the example of my father that the manner in which one endures what must be endured is more important than the thing that must be endured. Dean Acheson, American lawyer and statesman, 1893-1971.
Endurance is nobler than strength and patience than beauty. John Ruskin, British art critic and social thinker, 1819 – 1900.
Plutarch’s Parallel Lives, Caesar, 17 2 … but that he should undergo toils beyond his body’s apparent powers of endurance amazed them, Nevertheless, he did not make his feeble health an excuse for soft living, but rather his military service a cure for his feeble health, since by wearisome journeys, simple diet, continuously sleeping in the open air, and enduring hardships, he fought off his trouble and kept his body strong against its attacks.
“Woman has suffered for aeons, and that has given her infinite patience and infinite perseverance.” – Swami Vivekananda
I also found a poem by David Wagoner that illustrated one reason why Endurance may not come swiftly to mind when thinking about strengths — it is often quiet and retiring.
In a bad year, my father went away
A hundred miles to take the only job
He could find. Two nights a week he would sit down
In his boardinghouse after a hard shift
In the open hearth and write a duty letter.
He hated telephones, being hard of hearing
And hard of speaking and just as hard of spending
Now that he had to save our car and our house
And feed us from long distance. He knew words
Of all kinds, knew them cold in Latin
And Greek, from crossword puzzles and cryptograms,
But hardly any of them would come from his mouth
Or find their way onto paper. He wrote my mother
Short plain sentences about the weather
And, folded inside each single page, for me,
In colored pencils, a tracing of a cartoon
From the funny papers: Popeye or Barney Google
Or Mutt and Jeff or the Katzenjammer Kids.
The voice-balloons hanging over their heads
Said, “Hope to see you soon” or “Hello, David.”
And those would be his words for months on end.
I thank him now for his labor, his devotion
To duty and his doggedness. I was five,
And he was thirty-five. I have two daughters
As young as I was then (though I’m twice as old
As my father was). If I had to leave them
In a bad year, I’d want them to be good
To their mother and to love her as much as I did.
I’d miss them, and I’d want them to be happy
With or without me and to remember me.
If I could manage, I’d even write them love
In a letter home with traces of me inside.
David Wagoner (1999)
Endurance also affects the way people look, as illustrated in this passage from Anne of the Island, by L. M. Montgomery who frequently writes about duty patiently borne.
She finally concluded that this man had suffered and been strong, and it had been made manifest in his face. There was a sort of patient, humorous endurance in his expression which indicated that he would go to the stake if need be, but would keep on looking pleasant until he really had to begin squirming.
Husayn, Sheikh Khâlid (n.d.). Tests from Allah.
BBC (n.d.). The ethics of war.
Several endurance quotations are here.
Govig, S.D. (1994). Souls are made of endurance: Surviving mental illness in the family. Westminster John Knox Press.
Jones, Rufus M. (1941). Rethinking Quaker principles. Pendle Hill Pamphlet 8.
Lebra, R.S. (1976) Japanese Patterns of Behavior. University of Hawaii Press. 163. Retrieved 18 February 2006 from http://books.google.com/books?ie=UTF-8&vid=ISBN0824804600
Montgomery, L.M. (1915). Anne of the Island. Bantam Books.
O’Leary, J. S. (n.d.). Buddhist Serenity in a Time of Rage. Weblog.
Putnam, B. (4 October 2005). A daughter’s devotion: Prodigy Dakoda Dowd, 12, is putting golf dreams aside to stay close to her stricken mother. St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved 18 February 2006 from
Sivananda, Sri Swami (1947, WWW 1999). All about Hinduism.
Value Options (n.d.). Develop Resilience to Recover From Setbacks.
Vivekinanda, Swami (n.d.). Thoughts on women.
Wagoner, David (1999). A Letter Home. From Traveling Light: Collected and New Poems. Urbana and Chicago, IL: University of Illinois Press. Also retrieved 18 February 2006 from http://www.lorenwebster.net/In_a_Dark_Time/category/poets/david-wagoner/page/2/