The fourth B

You’ve likely heard of the classic trio of desirable qualities in a prospective partner: beauty, brains, and bankbook. To this I would add a fourth “B”: backbone. Because a person could be drop-dead gorgeous, or smart as a whip, or rich as Croesus, or even all three at once. But if you want dependability, initiative, staying power, you’ll need to find someone, or be someone, who has that fourth B.

Everything else is just gravy.

So what exactly is backbone? How about starting with what it’s not? Backbone is not the same as stubbornness, or pride. It’s not about being right all the time, excelling in everything you do, or being some kind of superhero.

Literally speaking, the backbone is your spine…something that helps you stand erect. So having backbone means, primarily, getting to your feet when you need to. Like when the alarm clock rings (instead of hitting snooze and rolling over for another five, ten, twenty minutes of sleep). Or when someone needs a helping hand. Or up from the table when you’ve had enough to eat. Or out the door when you find yourself in a bad situation. Or whenever you stumble, fall, or fail.

It means having fortitude and integrity: showing up when you say you will, doing what you say you’ll do. It means honouring your promises and following through on your commitments.

It means having wisdom and courage: making decisions based on the understanding that every action has consequences, and accepting those consequences once you have acted. It means not just knowing the right thing, but also doing the right thing, even when you run the risk of being laughed at, criticized, ostracized, or fired. It means defending people who can’t defend themselves.

Backbone is what makes any kind of relationship work, whether it’s a business partnership, a friendship, a marriage, or a family. Without it, we’re all just a bunch of marshmallows.

We can’t all transform ourselves into supermodels, geniuses, or millionaires. But it’s never too late for any of us to grow a backbone.


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