The quality of character ‘sisu’, mentioned in the “learning things” post, is among the things that fascinate me about the human spirit. I have many little theories about cultures, etc. One of those is that when God created Adam in His own image He included all the facets that we sometimes see as high points in certain cultures. Like the manifestations of hybrids – the qualities are all there in the DNA, but specific circumstances bring them into high relief.
Sisu is probably one to meditate on, as it is one of those qualities you especially need when working through adversity, but also in helping others. It was described as a reserve, but it is not a holding back type of reserve, but one of ‘tapping into’. I think it is most defined by the word ‘focus’. Like the response of the human body to extreme cold, sisu is concentrating on the core to move forward and to finish the course which must be finished.
That is sort of a play on words, as the original term is Finnish. I don’t know too many Finnish people (except one in our family- we have about one of anything! Exaggeration there, but you would think it from the times I am able to say that). But my dad,who grew up and worked along the Lakes in the early part of his life, lived among a large number of Finn culture. He often remarked that Finns were the toughest people he knew. That was someone of Scots heritage- who are pretty tough, as tough goes. ‘Tough’ as in hard edged and able to work against odds. Get the job done. “Come hell or high water” type of people. But he wondered at the Finns for their hard work and their endurance.
That is ‘sisu’ in action. I think it exemplifies the inner reserve that God has placed in us all. The Finns just get to exemplify it in character and in history. And one of the best ways to learn character is to see it worked out in people’s lives. They say a picture paints a thousand words, and I’d say a life lived out is a work of art. It paints those words in detail and with a finesse that drives the message home, and inspires the understanding.
You, as a singular person, might see yourself as weak, as not having the qualities of endurance that make it through hard times, but I would like to reassure you that it is not your DNA, or even your past experiences that make you all you are. You are full of the potentiality of your humanness. Within you is the reserve and the resource, that with the help of God, can get through “all things”.
You have sisu if you will tap into it. The ability to ‘get the job done’ is not in the overwhelming view of the work ahead, but the tight focus of the will within.
Using Sisu For Others
Helping people in their time of need is both something that some have more of a talent for, and something learned. Another way to say that is that we all have our own talent for contributing to the good of mankind. We do need to learn a few things on the topic, however. I always wanted to write a post on this all by itself, but it fits in with considering the nature of finding that sisu reserve. I learned a few things about giving from being on the “need of receiving” end of it at certain points in my life. One factor in truly helping is that it is not at your own convenience, but the others need that is foremost in the effort, a timeliness. The Bible says don’t tell someone to come back later when you have what they need at hand. Sometimes you need to move around your schedule and change your priorities when others needs are great or urgent.
Another is that we must consider that we all are subject to the human condition, that is that it could just as well be ourselves and our own family who are in the place of need. We should learn to give humbly, and not looking for thanks or promotion of our reputation.
And then there is the factor of sisu- sometimes it takes stretching out of our resources, our patience, our efforts, in giving to the needs and overcoming the stress of the times. Sometimes rebuilding is a slow, tough process, and must be met with determination that whatever it takes, whatever it demands, we will see the job done. We will accomplish the plan… we will see it through or die trying.
This is the way to prevail, and this is the way of excellence.
Admittedly, it takes more than our own resilience, it takes reliance upon the resources of God within and above us. But we start with where we are, who we are, and what we have at hand. We start where we are.
And it is in God’s hands where we end up. Thank God He promises it to be a good place, if we will but trust Him.