Synonyms of gritty: resolute, unyielding, spirited. Determination is already tough, but being grittily determined is just another level! I paused to reflect about these two words while reading page 47 of a book about the development of Christian doctrine. The author explains how ancient Rome came to absorb the culturally superior Greek world (and most of the rest) and places a lot of emphasis on the Romans’ willingness to share their citizenship in exchange for an increased supply of fighting manpower. “The Greek cities had never proved able to share the citizenship so easily, one reason why none had created a sustainable empire”. Then comes the important passage: “The Roman armies were also imbued with a gritty determination honed in the tough wars of the fourth and third centuries against the Samnites, the most formidable of the mountain people”. Note the “also”: determination is needed for a superior goal, or at least in combination with something else, just in itself is useless.
Determination is an useful trait in people as well as bigger organisms like cities or nations, but there is a difference between the normal sort and the gritty type. The normal version is the “good days” determination. When you are rich, well fed, supported, confident, educated, healthy, popular and any combination thereof. I do not mean to debase in any way this trait. Lucky entities can get even better aided by the “good days” sort. But it is in the darkest hours, in the hopeless moments, when is not even clear anymore why one fights on, then emerges the gritty determination. That’s the one that saves from extinction. I don’t think one organism can teach itself to be like that, but can learn through experience. I can’t just wake up tomorrow and think “I am going to be very determined, whatever happens, bla…bla…”, something very hard would shatter my good intentions. But if I have built some determination in past events, or observed it, I might stand a chance.
In fact the old Romans, even if Hannibal repeatedly humiliated them in battle, somehow managed to hang on and ultimately wore him down.
Even if we are no Romans and there are no invading elephants, we can still use a bit of determination to overcome our everyday challenges.