Never giving up, never listening to sense

Image courtesy of

Rebecca Barkdoll, Opinion Editor

So, I absolutely love analyzing words, mottos, and proverbs and just in the past few days I started thinking about the concept of never giving up. It sounds really cool and admirable. It sounds brave and bold. It sounds like the perfect romantic notion. And if you think about it, it sounds really, really stupid.

See, not giving up is great when it’s something like not letting unemployment keep you from surviving and thriving. It’s great when it’s something like not abandoning a friend who’s going through a dark time and is struggling to connect with others. But there are also times when it’s not great.

For example, if someone says they’re not giving up on the person they love, but their love is actually unrequited, that’s not admirable, that’s called being annoying (at best) or stalkerish(really not good) or downright crazy (really, really bad). I can’t emphasize this enough: if someone turns you down, you don’t keep trying to convince them. They know now, and if they ever change their mind, they can come ask you if you feel the same.

Another example is if you are working really hard at a job or in college but you’re getting really burnt out, sometimes it’s best to take a break. It’s only a temporary giving up and sometimes the break is exactly what you need to set yourself on the right path. Trust me. This is coming from experience.

See, sometimes the way our society handles the concept of never giving up is a little like a person who wants to break a brick wall in one punch, only the brick wall is six feet thick. There’s no way that’s happening before the person permanently injures themselves. They would be crazy to think otherwise. After all, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

We are really bad at this. We’ve absorbed this idea that we must be striving for something 24/7 and that we can’t take a break or choose a different direction without looking like we’re lazy or scared.

But sometimes the strongest things are the ones that are the most flexible and sometimes giving up and changing course is the most courageous thing to do because it shows humility and because it’s heading in a direction we may not know as well.

I’m all for striving for goals and seeing them through even when it’s hard. I mean, one of my life mottos is a quote from Avatar: The Last Airbender, which states “never give up without a fight.” But even in that quote, it doesn’t say that you can never course-correct. It only states that you don’t give up immediately. That’s fine. Sometimes you need to test whether the failure was a fluke or not. But then after that, you learn and you maybe change course.

So let’s all stop being the dramatic, stoic heroes that feel no pain and bend to no foe. We’re not invincible, we’re not always correct and our actions are not always harmless to either ourselves or others. And if giving up and surrendering can make us stronger, make us wiser and make everyone feel safer, then that’s what we need to do. Anything less makes us a coward to peer pressure and the familiar, even if both lead to continued failure.

Never stop trying. But feel free to change whatever it is that you’re trying. It’s life that you shouldn’t give up on. The rest is just flexible details.