There is a Norwegian proverb that reads: Heroism consists of hanging on one minute longer.

Ron Rolheiser, OMI

True heroism often consists in staying the course long enough, of hanging on when it seems hopeless, of suffering cold and aloneness while waiting for a new day.

All of us experience tension in our lives: tension in our families, tension in our friendships, tension in our places of work, tension in our churches, tension in our communities, and tension within our conversations around other people, politics, and current events. And, being good-hearted people, we carry that tension with patience, respect, graciousness, and forbearance – for a while!  Then, at a certain point we feel ourselves stretched to the limit, grow weary of doing what is right, feel something snap inside of us, and hear some inner voice say: Enough! I’ve put up with this too long! I won’t tolerate this anymore! We let go of patience, respect, graciousness, and forbearance, either by venting and giving back in kind or simply by fleeing the situation with an attitude of good riddance. Either way, we refuse to carry the tension any longer.

But that exact point, when we have to choose between giving up or holding on, carrying tension or letting it go, is a crucial moral site, one that determines character: Big-heartedness, nobility of character, deep maturity, and spiritual sanctity often manifest themselves around these questions: How much tension can we carry? How great is our patience and forbearance? How much can we put up with?

Mature parents put up with a lot of tension in raising their children. Mature teachers put up with a lot of tension in trying to open the minds and hearts of their students. Mature friends absorb a lot of tension in remaining faithful to each other. Mature young women and men put up with a lot of sexual tension while waiting for marriage. Mature Christians put up with a lot of tension in helping to absorb the immaturities and sins of their churches. Men and women are noble of character precisely when they can walk with patience, respect, graciousness, and forbearance amid crushing and unfair tensions, when they never grow weary of doing what is right.

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