The virtue of Stubbornness

This may not work at first because we have never looked at stubbornness as a virtue. So that idea will always encounter resistance. It is politically incorrect to be stubborn. The word stubbornness has been used in various cultures in a negative way to describe an undesirable trait in a person. In childhood, to be referred to as a stubborn child meant that you were disobedient, unwilling to mend your ways and singularly thick-eared. Some parents quickly adopted the technique of making the erring child red-eared. One remedy for stubborn children was to pit them against an equally stubborn adult to see who would last the longest. Carefully devised punishments aimed at extracting this ‘vice’ were applied in differing situations and differing degrees. The end result was usually ‘successful’ even if some children held out longer than others. By successful, the adults meant that the child came around to doing things their wayand became quicker to obey them.  

Even in adulthood, the quality of stubbornness is depreciated more than it is appreciated. Few admire stubborn people or stubborn animals. It is a quality that is oft likened to an animal trait. ‘Stubborn people’ is a phrase used to inferthat stubbornness is synonymous with unteachability.  

But stubbornness can be a good thing, especially when it is applied rightly. Stubbornly follow your dreams. Be stubborn in your belief in what is right. Be stubborn in upholding good things. Be stubborn in your faith. The opposite of stubbornness is not necessarily good. People who are not stubborn can be easily influenced by others and led into situations that are not healthy for them. Yet their lack of stubbornness can keep them trapped in that situation for long periods.  

Harnessed rightly, stubbornness can work to our advantage. There are many who have fought stubbornly for what they believed and knew was right and even though it took many, many years, they were victorious in the end. Look at most of our civil liberties and the women’s voting rights, and many other rights that have been won only by the dogged determination of those who fought for them. Our human civilization is what it is today because of those stubborn fighters. Democracy and not dictatorship, is a triumph that stubborn people fight for, die for and eventually win.  

I often think of Irom Sharmila and the determination with which she went on fighting her war against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act for so many years, risking her health and her very life. Even if it failed to get AFSPA removed, it was not a defeat; she demonstrated the power of one driven person, and so many more people, outside the Northeast region, came to know about this anti-human law by her action.  

Stubbornness can help you reach your goal. Put in that light, even though the quality of stubbornness may keep you trapped in a destructive habit, it can also work to safeguard against getting entrapped in the first place. So, it’s all a matter of how to harness the power of stubbornness in the right direction.  

Right now, there are different responses emerging toward the decriminalization of homosexuality, and it is being celebrated quite visibly in the metropolises. I have learned another new word from the updates on the process: it is majoritarianism. Sandip Roy wrote, “Gay life is stubborn. It exists despite a Section 377.” The fight to decriminalize homosexuality has been a long journey. It is in this context that the word majoritarianism is being applied to imply that the minority has been dictated to by the majority for too long. Without getting into the moral aspect of the concept of homosexuality, let me narrate what a small Christian church in America did in 2011 at a time when homo-hate was very high in Christian circles. The members joined the Gay parade in their town and expressed the love of Christ to the marchers without giving them any condemnation. After the parade was over, the church members joined in cleaning the streets with the gay celebrants. That’s another example of good stubbornness that courageously goes against the tide to display that Christianity is about love first, not judgment first. I think I like this talk about stubbornly standing one’s ground against the shouting majority. You may die alone, but there is virtue in that too.