Are You Determined, Or Actually Just Stubborn?

One day while I was working at a “9-5” years back, my wife called me in the middle of a hectic day. She was frantic because our son’s arm was stuck in a toy and she was scared, ready to take him to the emergency room. Calmly, I asked her to explain what toy it was and what our boy was trying to do. Soon understanding the situation, I told her how to take apart the toy so that our son could free his arm. But prior to her doing so, I asked her to take a photograph of him and send it to me. I couldn’t resist.

When I saw the photo, I couldn’t stop laughing. Crying and frustrated as he was, I was proud of him. With all his might, he was determined to get a ball that wasn’t popping out of his toy, even if meant he had to sacrifice his arm to get it. Hastily, I sent that picture to my colleagues saying, “This is what determination looks like in my family!“ Almost immediately, I got a reply from our financial controller saying, “Or more like stubbornness…

Hmph. Like a deer caught in headlights, I stopped laughing right away. My emotions raced from then joy to confusion, to defensiveness to eventually a very meditative mood. She got me thinking. What’s the difference between stubbornness and determination? Can’t someone who is stubborn and someone who is determined both say,

“I will not stop!”

“I will not quit!”

“I will keep going!”

“No matter the costs!”

So what’s the line that separates the two? I’m sure we’d all like to believe and think that we are determined business owners and leaders…not stubborn ones. We’d side with determination, as we may tend to associate arrogance with stubbornness (and far be it that we’re arrogant!). But that’s not always the case. Who is to say that our employees, our colleagues, co-workers, and even our family and friends don’t see us as stubborn? It’s a fine line, and it can be costly. Walking the line is dangerous, and not knowing that you’ve crossed it can be detrimental in many ways. So what’s the line that separates the two?

Attitude. The line is attitude.

Your attitude is what will distinguish whether you are determined or stubborn. It is the door through which wisdom enters to rest, settle and bear fruit in one’s life. And who doesn’t’ want wisdom? Well, someone who’s stubborn. Scripture says:

“But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.”  James 4:17

It’s pretty obvious that someone who is stubborn will not exemplify those characteristics. But does someone who is determined portray those characteristics? And do they do so consistently? Can those around us – especially those closest to us – testify that we are truly not stubborn? That we are “gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere”? Or does stubbornness creep into areas of our life that we cannot immediately see only to bear bad fruit that we excuse, saying, “I made the best choice possible with what I had.” If we don’t carefully evaluate what happened, we short ourselves and may continue with the same process of decision making, which may only lead to bad fruit.

I recently had to make some decisions in my business because the plans I made hit rock bottom. I raced through all the advice, counsel, and feedback I had received in the past year to determine if I had been stubborn in my way of thinking and my decision making process. After meditating, I realized I had been stubborn in some ways and I didn’t realize it. I took some counsel and mixed it with my own. I made decisions based on my own comfort level and with what I knew, or believed I knew, versus stepping into the unknown in faith. I chose to trust myself versus trusting in The Lord with the wisdom and counsel He had provided me, believing that He would see me through. In choosing my way, I allowed stubbornness to creep in and it cost me – financially and relationally.

In thinking through what my next steps would be, I’m realizing the direction I am willing to move in was advised to me in the passed year. I’m only now willing to step in that direction and make changes in my own life because my altered way did not succeed. I was stubborn and stubbornness would continue in its way and say, “My way or the highway,” but determination is “open to reason,” and says, “Lord, show me the way, and I’ll follow.”

God has spoken to me through His word, personal study, His people, and His Spirit and I am thankful. By God’s grace, I have Christian business owners and leaders willing to pour into me in a way that I would never have dreamed or imagined outside of Christian Business Fellowship – and so do you.

As you move forward in business, seeking counsel in your work, with and for others, take the time to check your heart and mind. Ask The Lord to reveal to you if you have a stubborn attitude or a determined one and be willing to ask those closest to you what they think.  It may not be obvious at first, but recognizing and confronting it now and recognizing where it has creeped in may mean all the difference in saving you – and those closest to you – plenty of time, money, relationships, and headaches down the road.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6