By Laura Stack
When Johnny was assigned a presentation on his five most important values in one of his college classes three months before he died, “Conviction” was 3rd on his list (following Altruism and Patience). I’ll write about his 4th and 5th values in the next two blog posts.
In this sense, the word “conviction” refers to a steadfast, unshakable belief. Conviction can refer to faith in a higher power, in humanity, in a process, a body of knowledge, a value, or a principle. As Johnny defined it:
“I think conviction means showing confidence in what you believe in, knowing it is the truth, and standing by it.”
Most of us understand the concept of conviction, though not all of us practice it—or if we do, it’s only when something goes wrong, not a daily thing. When you reach for a conviction, you want it to be there, or your hands may slip off, and your ability to cope in difficult situations can fail.
A conviction is no less than an anchor that holds you in place in the stormy seas of life. My Christian faith helps me through my worse storms, including Johnny’s death. It doesn’t mean I don’t grieve or feel pain—trust me, I am—but I have Him to hold on to. We believe that Johnny is in the Lord’s presence and healed of his afflictions, and we will see him again. We take comfort in Psalm 34:18, which says, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
What is that anchor for you? For example, perhaps you have a sound conviction in the sanctity of the Second Amendment to the Constitution. That believe may not guide your whole life, but your belief in your right to keep and bear arms may also anchor your sense of independence, self-reliance, and patriotism. If you’re an outdoorsman, perhaps sporting is important to your self-care. Perhaps you’re convicted to provide for your family, and it brings you a sense of self-worth.
The good news is, it’s never too late to find or develop convictions that let you hammer in stakes capable of holding you in place, come what may. So, give it some thought: what do you really believe in? What steadies you and validates you? What makes you happiest and most peaceful when you think of it? (Thing like the Dallas Cowboys or ice cream don’t count.) For your conviction to really work, it is something significant, constant, and life-affirming, such as beliefs in your self-worth, personal abilities, your family, your country, humanity in general, or your faith.
Shelter from the Storm
You can trust in your conviction to lead a worthwhile life. As Johnny wrote,
“Conviction should be practiced, because if you aren’t going to hold your ground resiliently and believe in yourself and what you stand for, then no one will. Many great and powerful leaders are only where they are today because they have conviction. We can practice conviction by being knowledgeable about what we’re talking about so that we have the utmost confidence in ourselves. In my personal life, conviction is practiced by me not allowing myself to be pushed around or tread on, and by being confident in the decisions I make.”
When you have a conviction to cling to, it’s far easier to settle yourself down when you’re uneasy, uncertain, or in pain. A solid conviction eases your mind, whether it’s a central conviction that guides your whole life, or a peripheral one that pertains to a specific subject or constellation of beliefs.
In addition to my faith, I’m convicted about my abilities to help people become more productive in work and life and to help them spend more time with their loved ones. In fact, I’ve made this my career. And I’m convicted about my purpose and calling to save the lives of our youth. That’s what Johnny’s Ambassadors has become for me. I am absolutely convicted, more than anything else in my life, to educate parents and teens about the dangers of today’s high-THC marijuana on the developing adolescent mind. I will not stop until we close the gap between the actual and perceived harmfulness of marijuana in our young teens!
I was touched to find that Johnny chose me as his role model for his Third Value. I was so proud of him, and it turns out he was so proud of me. Johnny said:
“Though it may appear to be cliché and overdone, the biggest role model in my own life is my mother, Laura Stack…she always believes in what she’s doing.”
He wrote an entire paragraph about me, concluding that I was a symbol of conviction to him and many others. He never said this to me while he was alive. So, to all the parents out there, you never know the difference you’re making in the lives of your children and the strong impact you can have on them. Better praise I could not ask for; just knowing he felt that way comforts me. That’s also one of the most important functions of any conviction.
Self-Assurance and Survival
Johnny hit the nail on the head when he defined conviction as showing confidence in the truth and standing by it. Conviction helps you keep your feet during quakes caused by social change, personal pain, or attacks on your belief system.
Nothing is more reassuring than unshakeable confidence in what is right, and nothing is more lifesaving when stress, spiritual or emotional pain, and other worldly concerns assail you. The anchors of conviction that secure your psyche, and your personal values define who you are as a person. They reveal your true self when unexpected events threaten to capsize you. Without them, you’re lost at sea.
My husband, John, and I, along with our two surviving children, Meagan and James, have personally seen how quickly marijuana can overwhelm the convictions of a bright, loving, talented person like Johnny. Thank you for helping us keep his spirit alive and being one of Johnny’s Ambassadors.