Benjamin Spall

On Weathering the Storm

In my recent research on character and the character traits that make us, I came across the phrase “weathering the storm” (also known as “riding out the storm”).

I’d heard of this phrase before, of course, but prior to my interest in character I hadn’t thought much of it. This simple idea, to hunker down and get through the hardships of our times; weathering the storms of life, as it were, is a uniquely stoic trait. Abraham Lincoln had it. Viktor Frankl had it. And as the author Ryan Holiday has highlighted in a number of his books, including the aptly-titled The Obstacle is the Way, Marcus Aurelius, who ruled the Roman Empire from 161 to 180, also had it.

Being British, I also feel a certain affinity to this phrase. What could the slogan “Keep Calm and Carry On,” displayed across motivational posters produced by the British government in the lead up to the Second World War, possibly be if not a plea for the British public to ride out the storms ahead? British stoicism, a largely Victorian ideal in which we are encouraged to “keep a stiff upper lip” sees weathering the storm as obvious. It’s just what you do; of course it is.

With this in mind, what does it actually mean to weather the storm; and where did the phrase come from originally?

What Does Weathering the Storm Mean?

The phrase “weathering the storm” means to survive hardships and come out alive, with minimal physical or emotional pain, on the other side. The literal version of this phrase refers to ships safely navigating poor weather.

Used metaphorically, there was a spike in usage of the phrase between 1878-1893, and again between 1926-1935, with the phrase appearing more consistently in popular usage from 1950 onwards. “Weathering the storm” and “ride out the storm” are two phrases which have enjoyed popularity over wide time spans due to their deep visuals; it’s obvious from the moment you hear them what they imply, and how they can be used in future scenarios.

Bible Verses on Weathering the Storm

There are numerous Bible verses about weathering the storm. Storms in both the literal and metaphorical sense come up consistently in the Bible, with their inclusion being used to illustrate the ever-changing complexities of life.

Here are some of my favorite Bible verses about weathering the storm:

  • “It will be a shelter and shade from the heat of the day, and a refuge and hiding place from the storm and rain.” (Isaiah 4:6)
  • “You rule over the surging sea; when its waves mount up, you still them.” (Psalm 89:9)
  • “Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress. He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed. They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven. Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind.” (Psalm 107:28-31)

How to Weather the Storm

Weathering a metaphorical storm requires patience, preparedness, and the discipline to see it through. While each storm you encounter will be different, here are three key overarching steps to weathering a storm:

Focus on Solutions

In Stephen R. Covey’s classic tome The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Covey implores us to “Begin with the end in mind.” What this means when it comes to weathering the storm, is to not focus on problems, but to focus on solutions. (Of course, this doesn’t necessary mean that the end justifies the means.)

Let’s look at the example of the breadwinner in your family, whether you or your spouse, losing a job. While it is important to focus briefly on the problem—the loss of the job—in order to file for unemployment and ensure you can pay your upcoming rent bill or mortgage payment, once these have been taken care of, you or your spouse should start to focus on solutions; that is getting another job.

Hunker Down

During the period in which you are focusing on solutions, you should do your best to hunker down and not open you or your family up as a target.

Returning to the above example, let’s say that you or your spouse, the breadwinner in your family, not only lost a job, but it happened due to inappropriate conduct on your or your spouse’s part. For the sake of this example, it doesn’t matter what this conduct was, but it can range from low-level theft, to embezzlement, to personal misconduct. Weathering the storm in this situation will require you to hunker down, think before you speak, and generally keep yourself out of the spotlight so you can do what you need to do to come out on the other side.

Avoid Blame

While you are weathering the storm by hunkering down and focusing on the solutions to your problem, be sure to avoid blaming others for the situation you find yourself in.

Again returning to the above example, in this step it’s important not to make any rash decisions with regard to your and your family’s future. If you believe your bad fortune is due in full or part to a character assassination against you this will likely be an exercise in frustration. If you want to weather the storm and come out on the other side, it is essential that you (or your spouse) blame nobody but yourself for the situation you have found yourself in, and you work to productively ride out the storm of your making.

Weathering the storm is less a one-time act than a consistent state of mind. To become a person of character, apply the trait of successfully riding out the storm whenever one may land.

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Benjamin Spall is the co-author of My Morning Routine (Portfolio/Penguin). He has written for outlets including the New York Times, New York Observer, Quartz, Entrepreneur, Business Insider, CNBC, and more.

How to Reference this Article

Spall, B. (2019, September 28). On Weathering the Storm. Retrieved from