“If you’re going through hell, keep going,” is, hands-down, one of my favorite quotes. Which is why I find it important to create a non-bullshitty guide to it.
Instead of being yet another author who rambles on about Winston Churchill’s alleged quote (more on that later), I want to make the quote applicable to your current life.
So here’s what it can look like to go through hell:
You got home from the doctor earlier today and she prescribed you a new diet.
You’ve been on it for a grand total of three hours—and you’re already daydreaming of tasty cakes and potato chips. You don’t even know how to make it past the first day of this diet, let alone the whole week.
You thought it would be great to become an uncle. But now you’re on babysitting duty with your brother’s spoiled kids… and seriously considering a vasectomy.
Just how many times do you need to tell them no? And when will this day finally be over?
Your partner decided to surprise you with museum tickets. Now you’re standing in front of a modern art “painting,” trying to appear interested.
In reality, the clashing colors are migraine-inducing and you can’t wait to get out of there. Unfortunately, there are a couple of hundred similar monstrosities left between you and the exit.
You made a lot of plans. For 2020.
Whether or not these situations qualify as hell is a question of personal preference, and perhaps theology.
Is this hell or just purgatory?
Leaving these theoretical questions aside, one thing is certain: whatever it is you’re going through, you’ve got to keep going.
Which brings us back to the quote:
What does “if you’re going through hell, keep going” mean?
It describes that the only way out of a challenging situation—whether that’s a modern art exhibition or an entire year (*coughs" 2020 *coughs*… sorry, too soon?)—is through.
If you find yourself in a bad place, there’s no point just staying there. You need to keep moving—literally or metaphorically—to get out.
In that sense, this quote speaks about the importance of showing toughness and resilience, in the face of catastrophe… or, well, cakes.
At the same time, it indicates hope… there is a light at the end of the tunnel. At some point, your taste buds will accommodate to the new diet. At some point, your brother will pick up his kids. At some point, the grief you’re dealing with will feel a bit easier to bear.
Just keep going and eventually, things will get better.
It’s not fun (casual strolls through hell—or modern art exhibitions—never are, unless you’re into that thing…) but it sure beats the alternative.
If I have convinced you to put “If you’re going through hell, keep going” on a post-it note and stick it, well, somewhere, you might wonder who you should attribute it to.
Let's explore this:
Did Winston Churchill ever say “if you’re going through hell, keep going”?
In short: Probably not. And I like this quote even more since I discovered that I don’t need to attribute it to Winston Churchill.
According to Quote Investigator, there is no evidence he actually said it. This means I can attribute the quote to Anonymous instead (you should probably do the same thing).
You may ask why I am relieved that this is not a Winston Churchill quote?
Well, as I’ve previously described Churchill (content warning for a bunch of racist things he reportedly said):
Winston Churchill: former UK Prime Minister with a knack for personal branding.
That’s why he’s now being seen as a great moral authority despite reportedly saying things that were racist even for his time period, such as: “ I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion.”/ “The Aryan stock is ripe for triumph.”
So, yeah, I’ll prefer quotes by Anonymous over Winston Churchill quotes any day.
In closing, I'd like to leave you with a quick reminder:
If you're going through hell, remember the following: “Hell is just a frame of mind.”― Christopher Marlowe, Dr. Faustus
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