Word to Live By: Gumption

Word to Live by // An AMH Series

How fun is this word?!

Whenever it comes to mind, there’s this feeling I always get.  This go-get-it-ness and get-er-done attitude. The actual definition is:

Gump·tion|guhmp-shuh n|noun, informal (dictionary.com)

  1. initiative; aggressiveness; resourcefulness:
    • With his gumption he’ll make a success of himself.
  2. courage; spunk; guts.
    • It takes gumption to quit a high-paying job
  3. common sense; shrewdness.

A circus act & a king’s court

Over Christmas break I watched the film The Greatest Showman in theaters.  Any fans? P.T. Barnum is an excellent example of someone with a gumption for greatness.  I had a film student open my eyes to this theme throughout the film.  Hugh Jackman’s character showed initiative, resourcefulness, and sometimes shrewdness to make it possible for his entrepreneurial dreams to come true.

Another example of gumption can be found in the book of Esther.

Queen Esther was a Jew living at the palace, who kept her identity secret as requested by her Uncle Mordecai.  When a threat against the Jews lives came to her uncle’s attention, he in turn told Esther to go before the king and plead with him on behalf of her people’s lives.

In Esther 4:11 (ESV), she replies to her uncles request.

“All the king’s servants and the people of the king’s provinces know that if any man or woman goes to the king inside the inner court without being called, there is but one law—to be put to death, except the one to whom the king holds out the golden scepter so that he may live. But as for me, I have not been called to come in to the king these thirty days.”

Mordecai replies to his niece telling her that just because she is in the king’s palace doesn’t make her exempt from what is coming to all the other Jews.  Reminding her that she could be placed in this position “for such a time as this.”

Our story picks up in verse 4:16 (ESV) where Esther replies to Mordecai.

“Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.”

So … what happens?  It would take some real “gumption” to purposely place yourself in a life or death situation.  Well, on the third day, Esther enters the king’s inner court and finds favor in his sight, so he spared her life by holding out the golden scepter.  Long story short, Esther saves her people’s lives.

Daily decisions & life-changing choices

Unlike P.T. Barnum, who worked very hard to become a success, greatness was thrust upon Esther and she found herself in a difficult position with an important decision to make.  

Both Esther and The Greatest Showman display examples of gumption in their own way.

One takes place in our day to day lives.  The other shows a response to hard choices that pop up during the course of our lives.  In both situations, initiative was taken in order to make something happen.

I found this quote online: you either have gumption or you don’t.  I don’t think that’s true. Gumption isn’t something you are born with. It’s the choice to keep moving forward with boldness even when we don’t know what the future holds.  


I’ve been racking my brain trying to figure out how I wanted to finish this post and what grand point I wanted to make.  I think this simple quote sums it up.  Annie Dillard wrote, “How we spend our days, is of course, how we spend our lives,” in her book The Writing Life.  

My hope and prayer is that this word keeps popping up as you go through your day to day life.  Now that you’re thinking about it, it won’t go away too quickly.  So when it does come to mind, you will have the gumption to make the right choice and charge forward.


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