3.6. Stubbornness Vs. Conviction

Stubbornness has a way of making you feel like you’re standing up…when, in fact, you’re running away.

What’s the difference between stubbornness and conviction?

It’s something worth thinking about.

We rightly admire people who stay strong in the conviction of their beliefs, even amidst all the social pressures compelling them to act otherwise.

And we rightly decry stubborn people who made up their minds a long time ago, and refuse like spoiled children to accept anything less than 100 percent of what they want.

But, superficially, these two states look very similar.

It’s not a coincidence that people genuinely full of conviction are constantly accused of being stubborn, selfish, and unreasonable.

And it’s not a coincidence that people genuinely full of stubbornness usually fail to recognize it—because they’ve grandiosely cloaked themselves in the fantasy of heroically standing up for their convictions.

It’s a big problem. And not just because stubborn people on the wrong side of progress get in the way of it.

Even stubborn people on the right side of progress tend to impede it—because stubbornness leads to very different mentalities, approaches, and strategies than genuine conviction.

The big difference, as I see it, is in the degree of openness.

Stubbornness has a way of making you feel like you’re standing up…when, in fact, you’re running away.

From reality. From complexity. From your own limitations.

From being inconvenienced by the beliefs of others. From having to listen and engage in good faith.

There comes a point—when you really take seriously moral, intellectual, and social issues—when you inevitably get fed up with the slow pace of progress.

You feel like you have a good grasp on what’s right. You feel like your position is what any reasonable person would arrive at, if they put as much effort into pondering it as you have.

Yet you keep hearing the same lame, debunked opposing arguments. Your conversations just keep going in circles.

It gets to a point where it’s like: “Dude, can we please move on now? I’m sick of getting stuck in the same cul-de-sacs and dead ends.”

This frustration is totally normal and understandable. But stubborn people use it as an excuse to shut down.

People with conviction keep going.

People with conviction take it in stride.

People with conviction keep listening, keep pondering, keep engaging. Because they aren’t afraid of being challenged.

Stubborn people are offended by being challenged. They think they’re above all that. They think they’re a noble warrior for the truth—and their opinion of you is directly proportional to the extent you believe what they do.

Stubborn people use their beliefs as cudgels to intimidate, silence, or force into submission those they disagree with.

People with conviction use their beliefs to inspire.

Stubborn people want to go to ideological war.

People with conviction want peace, even when it’s unpopular.

In these divisive times, stubborn people are everywhere, on all sides.

Don’t be one of them.

And don’t let their fallacies and narrowmindedness sway you from your convictions.


This is the 50th in a series of over 150 videos about how to create real, lasting social change. Click here for a list of all titles, videos, and transcripts.

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