Fortitude is about more than how much physical hardship we can take and still keep going. There’s a Spiritual aspect to Fortitude we can’t ignore. This is Spiritual Fortitude, and we need to be serious about building up this Virtue in ourselves.
The Victory in Virtue Series
Hello Readers, hope all’s well. Today I present another entry in the Victory in Virtue series. Today’s post is on the Virtue of Fortitude.
When we hear “Fortitude,” we imagine physical endurance. We imagine how much physical hardship we can endure, how much strength we have. How resilient we are. But the Virtue of Fortitude is much more than that. There’s a Spiritual side to the Virtue of Fortitude that can’t be ignored. In fact, it’s equally important to the physical aspects. So if you think the Virtue of Fortitude is only about the physical, today you’ll learn that’s only part of the story.
So that’s what today’s post is about. It’s a long post, so let’s get straight into it.
What Is the Virtue of Fortitude?
At its most basic, the Virtue of Fortitude is the strength to endure adversity and the tenacity to never give up. Fortitude is sticking to a path in the face of hardships, temptations to go astray, and urges to give up. Fortitude is the Virtue of staying strong in the face of setbacks, opposition, and adversity, not giving up the goals we’re working toward. We refuse to give up on our good resolutions.
That’s one sense of the Virtue of Fortitude. Another important sense is that of Spiritual Fortitude. It’s Virtuous to cultivate physical Fortitude, becoming able to bear physical hardship. But Spiritual Fortitude calls for us to be ‘tough’ in a different sort of way.
Spiritual Fortitude is about being spiritually, mentally, and emotionally tough. Having the Spiritual Fortitude to obey God’s commandments, especially when it’s hard. The best examples of this are forgiveness and turning the other cheek.
Forgiveness is an act of Spiritual Fortitude, because even though it’s good for us, and releases us from pain and suffering, it’s still incredibly difficult to obey Romans 12:19 and give up whatever payback we may be entitled to. On that note, turning the other cheek is one of the most difficult things we can do in life, ever. If someone “slaps” us in any way—it could be a physical blow, an insult, or any kind of attack on us—it’s our natural instinct to hit back. To defend ourselves, to repay hurt for hurt. It goes against our natural instinct to suppress that impulse, and choose not to “hit” people back. To choose to obey God’s commandments instead of our own will and desires. Choosing this holier, more spiritual choice takes Spiritual Fortitude.
These things are difficult, some of the hardest things we’re called to do in life. But nothing in the Bible promises us that the spiritual path of Christianity will be easy for us (here on earth). This path promises us adversity and affliction, which will forge us and make us stronger. It will kill off our old, sinful natures, making us more spiritual and more like Christ. This process will last our whole lives as long as we stay on this path. The goal is becoming as Christlike as we can be here in this life, on earth. To keep walking this path, endure all kinds of suffering, and keep going takes great Fortitude.
(10) See, I have refined you, though not as silver;Isaiah 48:10 (NIV)
I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.
No one says this is easy. But our suffering does work to our benefit. Experiencing suffering builds up our Fortitude. Enduring physical suffering and getting back up again builds our physical Fortitude. Enduring emotional pain and continuing to go on builds our Spiritual Fortitude. Making that choice to obey Jesus’ teachings when it’s painful to do so, like the examples above, also builds our Spiritual Fortitude. The more pain we endure without letting it stop us, the more Fortitude we gain. Our suffering builds our Fortitude and perseverance, and these traits lead to hope.
(3) Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; (4) perseverance, character; and character, hope.Romans 5:3-4 (NIV)
So the simple act of enduring is the path to building the Virtue of Fortitude. Enduring pain, temptation, insults and slander, other kinds of attacks—these things make us stronger.
And there’s one more aspect of the Virtue of Fortitude, which is as important as the other two. And this would be having the Fortitude to never give up on our path, to get back up again when we fall and keep going. Because we’re bound to fail, bound to fall in our journey. That can’t be helped. But when we get knocked down, we can choose not to give up, we can choose to get back up again and keep moving. This is difficult and takes great Fortitude, but it also builds great Fortitude itself.
It’s Virtuous to cultivate Fortitude, sticking to our goals and resisting temptations to give up or go astray. But does that mean if we mess up this Virtue once, we’re hopeless? No, the Virtue of Fortitude is also found in the stubborn persistence to never give up, even after failing. It’s Virtuous to pick ourselves up and get back to the program, but we must examine ourselves and understand why we failed if we hope to overcome that stumbling block. We must pray to the LORD for the Wisdom from His Holy Spirit if we’re going to learn from our failure. We are fighting to overcome ourselves and our old ways, so we need the LORD’s Wisdom and Fortitude to do it.
Getting back up after we’ve been knocked down is Fortitude. Never give up! But also don’t forget that we need to learn from our failures if we don’t want to keep repeating them. We need to learn if we want to go farther.
We need help in this quest, we can’t go it alone. Reaching out for help when we need it also shows the Virtue of Fortitude. We are standing firm in our good resolution by doing so, because we’re doing what we need to do to stay in the fight. We can’t be strong all the time; life will stress us out and can create urges to give up, go backwards, or relapse. Rather than gritting our teeth and suffering on, it actually shows Fortitude to be vulnerable with people we can trust, and tell them we’re struggling so they can help and encourage us. Many people have great Fortitude, but it won’t be enough on its own. We all need to lean on others sometimes, and ask to lean on their Fortitude for a time. Then we can do the same for them, when we’re able to, and so fulfill the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2).
Well, I could keep going on this topic forever, so I need to stop somewhere. I hope you understand there’s more to the Virtue of Fortitude than physical Fortitude. It’s Virtuous to be able to take a literal beating and keep going, but the Virtue is found in so much more than that. And for those who are already physically tough, the pursuit of Spiritual Fortitude might be a tougher challenge, since it’s a different kind of toughness.
Anyway, let’s move on to some prayers for gaining this Virtue.
Prayers for the Virtue of Fortitude
There are many prayers we could pray to receive the Virtue of Fortitude. The best ones of course will be the ones that we create ourselves—the ones that come straight from the heart. Remember: When we pray we aren’t trying to say the right combination of words to unlock something in Heaven. No, that would be magic, which is an abomination to the LORD. Prayer is much simpler. Simply tell the LORD what you want, what you need, what’s on your mind, what’s bothering you, and so on.
Praying for a Virtue is a great way to build it up. It’s one of the best ways, actually. So here are a few short, simple prayers for the Virtue of Fortitude you can try adding to your prayer routine.
Courageously Overcome Ourselves
Here’s another Catholic prayer I have “De-Catholicized” so that it’s safe to pray. Meaning, I took out all content about the saint this prayer was addressed to. Because saints (or Mary) are not moderators between God and mankind. There is only one moderator between God and man, and that’s the human being, Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 2:5). There is nothing in the Bible that says we should pray to anything besides Jesus Christ, the LORD.
And the resulting prayer asks for the Fortitude to overcome ourselves (our worst enemy). Then we can defeat the enemy of our salvation, that old sinful nature, and be free of it. Check it out:
O God, Rewarder of those who remain firm in their good resolutions, we beseech You, that You would grant us fortitude so that we may courageously and perseveringly overcome ourselves and finally conquer the enemy of our salvation through Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Amen.
I Know Suffering Is for my Good
Inspired by Romans 5:3-4, quoted above. Scripture tells us that suffering produces perseverance, which produces character, which produces hope. We also know the LORD forges us in the fire of adversity for His purposes. And His purposes for us are what’s best for us, long-term. God has a good future planned for us if we obey Him, He’s not trying to destroy us. We can’t let our present suffering distract us from that fact.
(11) For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
God wants to bless us all if we love Him and obey His commandments. But sometimes before He can do that He needs to get us ready for the blessing first. He needs to prepare us, make us tougher. To make us tougher He needs to make us suffer. With that in mind, we should always give thanks for our suffering … but that doesn’t in any way mean that suffering is easy. It isn’t. We need to keep the right perspective on it and be thankful for it, that’s all. So this is a prayer about that.
LORD, I give thanks to You for my present suffering. Though I don’t enjoy it, I know this suffering is Your Will and works to my good in the long-term. I don’t know the good outcome You have planned for the future, but I choose to trust in You and keep moving forward through this pain. I’m grateful for my blessings so far, and grateful in advance for the good ending to this season of suffering. But even though I know suffering strengthens me, it still hurts and so I pray to You for relief and healing, for the Fortitude to bear this pain, and for the Wisdom to learn from it. Amen.
Help me Pass this Test
When our Faith is tested, and we hold firm to it, we build up our Spiritual Fortitude. This is like what I mentioned above with turning the other cheek. It’s incredibly difficult to do that, and violates our natural instincts. But those instincts are what we’re aiming to kill if we’re on the spiritual path that is Christianity.
If we’re to have any Hope of doing that, any Hope of killing off our old, sinful nature, then we need to be Spiritually tested. We need our Faith to be tested. With that in mind, we should be thankful when we recognize that our Faith is being tested. This is stated in James 1:2-4.
(2) Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, (3) because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. (4) Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.James 1:2-4 (NIV)
This passage tells us to be happy when we’re tested, because we know it’s going to build us up. It also tells us that enduring through these trials makes us “mature and complete.” In other words it makes us better and better. It’s not in our natural instinct to be happy for difficulties, but we can learn to be happy because of the potential to move to a higher level.
And so this prayer offers thanks for our tests of Faith. It asks for the Wisdom to learn from the test, and the Spiritual Fortitude to see it through. Check it out:
LORD, I give thanks for my present trials. Although I don’t enjoy the spiritual or emotional pain of this test, I’m happy my Faith is being tested because I know this is how I can become more mature and complete as Scripture says. I thank You for the opportunity to move to a higher level of Faith. Please grant me Your Wisdom, LORD, so I can learn the lessons of this trial and become wiser. And please grant me the Spiritual Fortitude to endure this spiritual suffering, not giving in to despair, but turning to You and getting closer to You, so I can grow in Faith instead of losing Faith. Amen.
Help Me Respond in the Spirit
Turning the other cheek, forgiveness. These are some of the hardest things we can do, as I keep saying. But if Jesus told us to do it, that means it’s especially important. God wouldn’t send His Son to die on earth to tell us unimportant things that anybody could think of. What Jesus came to tell us is of the utmost importance.
The more we try to live the Gospels, the more we understand that Jesus is telling us to do things the hard way. To avoid the easy, obvious, simple route. When someone “slaps us”—physically, verbally, emotionally, socially (slander, gossip, insults, etc.), financially, or other kinds of attacks—our natural instinct is to strike back. To repay everything blow for blow, insult for insult, and so on. But striking back is the obvious route, the simple route. The easy route.
Jesus calls us to be better than that. But as I keep saying over and over, it’s not easy because it hurts us to do it. It hurts to subdue our natural instincts. This takes Spiritual Fortitude. So if Spiritual Fortitude is what we want then we should pray to LORD Jesus for it.
LORD, help me when I come into conflict not to react in the flesh, but to respond in the Spirit. Help me to live up to Your most difficult teachings, like forgiveness and turning the other cheek. These call for incredible Spiritual Fortitude, which I need more of. Please grant me more Spiritual Fortitude, LORD, so I can become better and better at obeying Your Word out of love for You and for all people. Amen.
Fortitude from Failure
Now for the final prayer. I said above that one part of the Virtue of Fortitude is not giving up, ever. It’s about getting back up after we’ve fallen. It’s about failing, and not letting failure stop us. No one can stop a person who never gives up.
To get back up after a failure, setback, betrayal, disappointment, and so on takes great Fortitude. It takes Fortitude, but at the same time doing this builds Fortitude too. We need Fortitude to do it but also gain Fortitude by doing it.
Although failing and not giving up will build Fortitude, we’re off-target if we repeat the same failure again and again. We should be learning from our failures, getting better, and avoiding the mistakes we made in the past. We should always be tripping up on new failures we haven’t dealt with before. The important thing about that is we’re not repeating one failure over and over.
If we want to learn from anything, we need the LORD’s Wisdom. Lucky for us, He gives it out freely and generously to all who ask (James 1:5). We need to gain Wisdom from our failures if we want to move forward instead of getting stuck on the same problem.
So here’s a prayer asking for the Fortitude to get back up after getting knocked down, and the Wisdom to learn from it.
LORD, I’ve failed. I failed in my intentions and my plans have fallen apart. I choose not to give up on my good goal, but I know I won’t reach it when or how I expected. I take comfort in knowing that I’m not defeated until I give up. As long as I get back up again, I can still succeed. I take comfort in knowing failure can strengthen and teach us. If I learn from this setback, I can do better in the future. So LORD, please grant me the Fortitude to get back up and start moving forward again. It’s painful to endure this failure, and painful to get back up. Please grant me the Fortitude I need to recover and get stronger. And please grant me the Wisdom to learn from this experience, so I can avoid the same stumbling block in the future. I’m grateful that You give Wisdom freely to all who ask for it. Please grant me Wisdom in this failure, LORD. Amen.
Again, there are so many options for praying for any Virtue. I could go on and on and on. Everyone is always welcome to leave a comment with prayers of their own.
But once we’re done praying, it’s time to take action (in the physical world). Let’s move on to that now.
Living the Virtue
To cultivate a Virtue, we must also practice it, and do that consistently. Don’t just do it a few times and stop there—stay consistent. That consistency is how you build up a habit. It’s also how you cultivate and strengthen a virtue.
So how can we do that with Fortitude? Let’s look at a few practical ideas. And remember: These are only a start! The possibilities are endless. I welcome any comments with good ideas about this.
Here are just a few ideas of how we can live out the Virtue of Fortitude in our own lives:
- Physical exercise and training (physical Fortitude)
- Reach out to someone we don’t like and have conflict with, forgive them and end the conflict (Spiritual Fortitude)
- Joining or creating support groups we can reach out to when we need Fortitude; helping and supporting others when we’re strong and they need some Fortitude
- After failing in pursuit of a goal, reflect on the lessons of failure, write them down, and work toward that goal again
- And other ideas you can think of!
Let’s start with the most basic and obvious. One part of Fortitude is how physically tough we are, how much physical pain we can endure and keep going. So if we want to build ourselves up physically, we must exercise. If we want to take that to another level, we must train, but this option isn’t available to everyone. In any case, physical exercise makes us stronger and healthier, so our bodies will be tougher and able to endure more hardship. We should push ourselves in our physical exercise, continuing to challenge ourselves. And as we go along we’ll build up physical Fortitude.
Next is Spiritual Fortitude. There’s so many ways we need to work on this, I could go on writing about it forever. What we need to do is build the Spiritual Fortitude to control our emotions and reactions, so we react in the Spirit instead of the flesh. This is the key to turning the other cheek and so on. Controlling and overcoming our flesh nature to take the higher, Spiritual path.
Developing that kind of self-control is a huge topic of its own that I won’t get into right now. I’ll only offer one practical thing we can do to start building Spiritual Fortitude and develop this Virtue. And that would be forgiving someone. If you’re anything like me, you probably have at least a few people in your life you have conflict with. Maybe you don’t talk to them so much, or maybe you don’t talk to them at all. I’ll bet that you, whoever you are, have at least one person in your life like this you have conflict with.
Well one way to start on the path of Spiritual Fortitude is to swallow our pride, reach out to this person, and forgive them. To clear up the conflict between us and settle it. If we’re in a position to drop the conflict, then drop it. Let it go, even if we’re in the right. Turn the other cheek, giving up all rights we have to payback of any kind. This is taking the Spiritual path, and hurts our interests in the flesh. But it will build up Spiritual Fortitude, and bring us closer to God as we obey His most difficult commandments. This is only one idea for building up Spiritual Fortitude.
Next, another part of Fortitude is knowing when we’re weak and need help. It’s Virtuous to reach out for support when we need it, because we’re maintaining the Virtue of Fortitude by doing so. It’s better to reach out for help when we need it than it is to fall and be overcome. So joining, creating, and taking part in support groups is Virtuous and will help us to keep our Fortitude. We can start or join these groups at our church, or we can start them elsewhere. We can take part in secular groups and still be Christians, no problem.
Finally, a big part of the Virtue of Fortitude is getting back up after we’ve failed and fallen. To keep on going takes Fortitude, and also builds Fortitude when we do. But to keep stubbornly sticking to the same strategies we know aren’t working is not being Wise. We need the Wisdom to see when something isn’t working, and to know when to think of something different.
And so, when we fail we should regroup and pick ourselves back up. Then we should spend enough time reflecting on the lessons of failure, and try to figure out why we failed. Pray to the Holy Spirit for Wisdom on this. And write down all the lessons we receive. After that, we can get back up and try for our goal again, with a different strategy. It’s not Virtuous to keep “banging our head against the wall” with a strategy that doesn’t work. That isn’t the Virtue of Fortitude. Fortitude is about tenacity, but not stubbornness.
Fortitude of the Soul
So that’s it. I hope you learned that the Virtue of Fortitude is about more than physical tenacity. Fortitude is about more than how much physical hardship we can take and still keep going.
There’s a Spiritual aspect to Fortitude we can’t ignore. This is Spiritual Fortitude, and we need to be serious about building up this Virtue in ourselves. Controlling our reactions and behavior, obeying God’s commandments at all times and reacting in the Spirit rather than the flesh, is a vital part of the Virtue of Fortitude. It takes Spiritual Fortitude to forgive. It takes Spiritual Fortitude to turn the other cheek, to drop arguments and settle conflicts. None of these things are easy.
The Virtue of Fortitude is found in many parts of life. It’s found in not giving up, and in failure. It’s found in getting back up after we get knocked down, and it’s found in reaching out for help. The Virtue of Fortitude is a lot of things. There are a lot of ways we need to be tenacious, because there are a lot of ways to suffer pain. Fortitude is much more than a physical Virtue.
On that note, I’ll end with the words of a Catholic Spiritual man named Bruno. I won’t call him a saint, because that’s not a title I recognize, but the Catholics call him as such. But he did say something about the Virtue of Fortitude and its Spiritual aspects which wraps this up nicely. Take a look:
What shall I say of fortitude, without which neither wisdom nor justice is of any worth? Fortitude is not of the body, but is a constancy of soul; wherewith we are conquerors in righteousness, patiently bear all adversities, and in prosperity are not puffed up. This fortitude he lacks who is overcome by pride, anger, greed, drunkenness, and the like. Neither have they fortitude who when in adversity make shift to escape at their souls’ expense; wherefore the Lord saith, ‘Fear not those who kill the body, but cannot kill the soul.’ In like manner those who are puffed up in prosperity and abandon themselves to excessive joviality cannot be called strong. For how can they be called strong who cannot hide and repress the heart’s emotion? Fortitude is never conquered, or if conquered, is not fortitude.Bruno the Catholic
The Virtue for next time is Temperance. Stay tuned for that and Subscribe to my FREE weekly newsletter with the link below so you’ll never miss a post!!
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Until next time, be strong and do good!
Your new best friend in Christ,
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