Stick To Your Guns
Posted: September 11, 2014
“Stick to your guns.” The phrase is typically used as a metaphor for not giving up on an idea. Or not stopping, once you’ve started something. Like a lot of old phrases, it’s interesting to think about where it originally came from.
According to the McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs, it means “to remain firm on one’s convictions, to stand up for one’s rights. The dictionary refers to a soldier staying on the line, ready to fire their weapon, “even when all appears to be lost.”
When you were about to be overwhelmed by a superior force, and you were clearly in danger, you still stuck to your guns. Even if all was lost.
This meant that there was a higher purpose at stake, even than your own life, or those of your compatriots. You held the line, whatever it took. If you were overrun, they could flank the main army, or take the city, and then the battle was lost.
Pretty serious stuff, I know. But does the phrase still retain it’s early meaning? Does it still carry the same weight of conviction? Probably not.
So why do we still say it? Start a new diet or exercise program and someone like me will say “You’ve got to stick to your guns.” When our kids are thinking about making a change because practices are getting tough, we tell em “You’ve got to stick to your guns!” And when someone challenges our position on something, we’re encouraged to stand up and “Stick to our guns.”
Sometimes we stick. But all too often we don’t. Life intrudes, pressure comes to bear, and we yield the field. We simply give up.
But what if it were life or death? We’d hold the line. Whatever it took. When we can convince ourselves something is that important, we’ll hold on. When we can find that level of commitment, we’ll find a way. We’ll stick to our guns!