Thoughts on the Fortitude of the Human Spirit

The games of the 31st Olympiad have begun. As always, I marvel at the strength, speed, courage, drive, determination, single-mindedness, commitment and perseverance of the athletes. These are people who routinely push themselves beyond the bounds of human limits. They embody qualities that are admired and prized the world over.

And this has got me thinking about the human spirit. So often, life challenges us in ways that require extraordinary effort, not unlike that of a serious athlete. In the face of a personal crisis, social injustice or chronic strain, what do we do? We straighten our spines, dig deep for our inner fortitude and keep putting one foot in front of the other, doing what needs to be done. Occasionally our strength and courage are celebrated publicly and with fanfare, but more often we navigate our personal challenges quietly and privately.

A single mother raises four children while working two jobs. An adolescent survives the chaos of her home life and the bullying she endures at school each day. A rape survivor who never told anyone finds her voice and breaks her silence. A middle-aged man faces the pain of his addiction, finds sobriety and his story become powerful inspiration for others. An old man grieves the loss of his wife, his health, his shrinking circle of friends. Someone who is feeling hopeless and depressed today makes a Herculean effort to get out of bed, get dressed and go out for a walk. These are victories worthy of celebration.

As I say, I’ve been thinking about the human spirit. All around me, I see people who routinely push themselves beyond the bounds of what seems humanly possible. And I marvel.


Written by Elena Walker, MA, LPCC