Sometimes quitting is not advisable because there are benefits to persistence. How do we know when to persist and when to quit?
Persist while there is still hope of success and the end point is in sight. Perhaps the runner will not win the race, but success is measured in many ways. The runner can find joy and success, when victory is no longer possible. Even the race winner will cheer the last person to cross the finish line. Quitting is called for when persistence would lead to death or severe physical or emotional damage. Winning is not always the most important thing. Sometimes the only self-respecting thing to do is to stop.
Persist while the other person is still engaged and trying. Persist when your sacrifices and efforts are met with appreciation and reciprocal sacrifices, effort, and appreciation. Stop when another person has disengaged and their actions show utter disregard for your well being or points of view. It is futile to give your best and your all, when the other person shows by their words, behaviors or attitudes that they devalue you. Sometimes the only self-respecting thing to do is to move on.
Persist when you want to become a master at something. To be skilled or an expert can take 10 years of experience, learning, and practice. It is unreasonable to expect to become an expert on the basis of aptitude or talent alone. Setting short term goals can help you to persevere so that you reach the long term goals. While it may be boring to develop the fundamental skills, it lays the groundwork for phenomenal results.
Persist when the well being of a child is dependent on it. Perhaps your relationship is not what you thought it was or other people seem more interesting. But if you have a child depending on you, it is worth investing in your relationship, so long as the relationship is not abusive. Every relationship has rough patches or disagreements. When the going gets tough, you do not need to wait for your partner to take the initiative. When one person begins to work on meeting the needs of the other person in the relationship, the other person often responds favorably.
In the moment, quitting is appealing, but before you leave a relationship, ask yourself: “What will I teach my child by staying or by walking away? What will happen to my relationship with my child, if I stay in this relationship or if I leave this relationship?” Sometimes by staying you teach a child that problems can be solved through forgiveness and effort. Other times by staying you teach a child that staying together is more important than safety or stability. Sometimes, by walking away, parents teach a child to choose selfish desires over anything else. Other times, by walking away, parents may teach children that it is ok to have boundaries and self-respect, and that it is important to choose safety, and that your efforts alone cannot change or rescue another person.
Persist while you are still learning and growing. Know that life ebbs and flows. Sometimes you have learned all you can from a friendship, job, interest, or volunteer opportunity. When you have moved beyond someone or something, it is okay to let go, quit or move on.
Consider the child’s game of Candyland. It may be appropriate at age three, but what if you never moved on or up? You may belong to a spiritual practice that once held a lot of meaning to you, but as you take in more information your view may change. The group or practice may stop being fulfilling or you may no longer believe its major teachings or rituals. It takes real courage and integrity to rethink a position, take in new information and change your mind and activities. This is not failure. This is strength of moral conviction, letting go of what others still cling to. At the same time, some people may stay and choose to try to reform things from the inside out. If they do, they continue to grow in new directions.
To stay or go is a personal choice, and there is no one size fits all choice to be made. For some staying and trying to bring about change can be empowering, but for others it may simply be abusive.