Word of the Week: Tenacity

Church Shooting in Texas by Pastor Jeff Gannon IMG_8693 copyTenacity

This week’s word is tenacity. I like this definition of tenacity: tenacity (noun) perseverance. Tenacity is the quality of being determined to do something in spite of difficulties and hurdles. If you are determined to achieve something in spite of the difficulties and risks involved in it, you have tenacity. Holding on to something in spite of difficulties and dangers is tenacity.

The spiritual life requires a fine, delicate balance between holding on and letting go. Both are essential and both have their place. Last week, the focus was on letting go – letting go of the past and letting go of the worry and stress of thinking about the future. The challenge is to live fully in the present moment. It requires a lot of letting go.

However, equally important is the importance of holding on. As human beings, we tend to let go when we need to hold on, and hold on when we need to let go. That’s the reality of being human. This week, I would like to talk about the importance of tenacity – of holding on when you want to let go.

Separateness and togetherness

Tenacity absolutely requires two things: self-differentiation and turning toward something greater than yourself. (Separateness and togetherness).


I have been trained in and influenced by Pastor Peter Scazzero’s book, “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality.” He begins to talk about living from our true selves in and through Jesus. He uses Dr. Murray Bowen’s term “self-differentiation” to talk about this. He says, “One very helpful way to clarify this process of growing in our faithfulness to our true selves in a new way is through the use of a new term: differentiation. Developed by Murray Bowen, M.D., the founder of modern family systems theory, it refers to a person’s capacity to ‘define his or her own life’s goals and values apart from the pressures of those around them.’ The key emphasis of differentiation is on the ability to think clearly and carefully as another means, besides our feelings, of knowing ourselves.”

Differentiation is about knowing yourself and who you are and who you are not and holding on to that self. The goal is to hold to yourself and your values and goals apart from all the anxiety and pressure around you (separateness) while remaining close to those in your life (togetherness). These two forces of separateness and togetherness are what makes the tension in differentiation.

Tenacity Quote

Scazzero writes, “People with a high level of differentiation have their own beliefs, convictions, directions, goals, and values apart from the pressures around them. They can choose, before God, how they want to be without being controlled by the approval or disapproval of others. Intensity of feelings, high stress, or the anxiety of others around them does not overwhelm their capacity to think intelligently.”

A scale for differentiation

Pastor Scazzero has simplified a scale of differentiation found in Dr. Bowen’s theory. He says of it, “On the lower end of the scale are those with little sense of their unique God-given life. They need continual affirmation and validation from others because they don’t have a clear sense of who they are. They depend on what other people think and feel in order to have a sense of their own worth and identity. Or out of fear of getting too close to someone and thus swallowed up, they may avoid closeness to other completely. Under stress they have little ability to distinguish between their feelings and their thought (intellectual) process.”

Considering that Jesus was 100 percent true to Himself, or “self-differentiated,” where might you place yourself on this scale? (This is Pastor Scazzero’s scale, not mine)



  • Can’t distinguish between fact and feeling
  • Emotionally needy and highly reactive to others
  • Much of life energy spent in winning the approval of others
  • Little energy for goal-directed activities
  • Can’t say, “I think….I believe….”
  • Little emotional separation from their families
  • Dependent marital relationships
  • Do very poorly in transitions, crises, and life adjustments
  • Unable to see where they end and others begin


  • Some ability to distinguish between fact and feeling
  • Most of self is a “false self” and reflected from others
  • When anxiety is low, they function relatively well
  • Quick to imitate others and change themselves to gain acceptance from others
  • Often talk one set of principles/beliefs, yet do another
  • Self-esteem soars with compliments or is crushed by criticism
  • Become anxious when a relationship system falls apart or becomes unbalanced
  • Often make poor decisions due to their inability to think clearly under stress
  • Seek power, honor, knowledge, and love from others to cloth their false self


  • Aware of the thinking and feeling functions that work as a team
  • Reasonable level of “true self”
  • Can follow life goals that are determined from within
  • Can state beliefs calmly without putting others down
  • Marriage is a functioning partnership where intimacy can be enjoyed without losing self
  • Can allow children to progress through development phrases into adult autonomy
  • Function well–alone or with others
  • Able to cope with crisis without falling apart
  • Stay in relational connection with others without insisting they see the world the same

75-100 (Few function at this level)

  • Is principle oriented and goal directed–secure in who they are, unaffected by criticism or praise
  • Is able to leave family of origin and become an inner-directed adult
  • Sure of their beliefs but not dogmatic or closed in their thinking
  • Can hear and evaluate beliefs of others, discarding old beliefs in favor of new ones
  • Can listen without reacting and communicate without antagonizing others
  • Can respect others without having to change them
  • Aware of dependence on others and responsibility for others
  • Free to enjoy life and play
  • Able to maintain a non-anxious presence in the midst of stress and pressure
  • Able to take responsibility for their own destiny and life

On which part of the scale are you?

Do not fret! If you are at lower levels of functioning you can work your way up with very hard work, dedication, and lots and lots of prayer!

Begin to ask Jesus to reveal to you where you are weak? Ask Him to reveal to you where you need growth? Ask Him into the hidden places of your heart, so that His light will shine in on those parts and His healing balm will restore those wounds. Ask Christ for His grace and mercy as you seek to grow.

Ask Christ to show you how He sees you and Jesus will reveal in love our true self and our false self.

Oh, that God would give us the very smallest of gifts
To be able to see ourselves as [how God and] others see us
It would save us from many mistakes and foolish thoughts.
We would change the way we look and gesture and to how and what we apply our time and attention.

Read more of Pastor Jeff’s blog, St. Arbuck’s Chapel.

One comment

  1. Blog is very helpful. I used tenacity in my sales meeting to help my sales staff. Also am praying for God’s
    help in letting go when faced with anxiety in the coming months with cleaning out Kenton’s home and moving

    Comment by Karen Grubbs on December 31, 2017 at 8:34 am