Winston Churchill? Douglas Bloch? Linda Crew? Mario Murillo? Brian Mulroney? Wally Amos? Ron Kenoly? Anonymous?
If you’re going through hell, keep going.
I have seen this statement attributed to Churchill several times, but I have never seen any solid citations. Are these really the words of the famous British Prime Minister?
Quote Investigator: Probably not. In 2009 the publication “Finest Hour: The Journal of Winston Churchill” stated that the saying above was “not by Churchill, or at least not verifiable in any of the 50 million published words by and about him”. 1 In addition, the statement was placed in an appendix titled “Red Herrings: False Attributions” in the book “Churchill By Himself” which is the most comprehensive collection of quotations from the statesman. The editor was Richard M. Langworth, the top expert in this domain. 2
This adage is difficult to trace because of the malleability of its expression. The earliest evidence located by QI appeared in “The Oregonian” newspaper of Portland, Oregon in 1990. A self-help author and counselor named Douglas Bloch was profiled in an article that employed a version of the saying in its title: “If You’re Going Through Hell, Don’t Stop”. The phrase “don’t stop” was used instead of “keep going”. Within the body of the article Bloch spoke a slightly different two-part comment-response version of the maxim to his interviewer. Bold face has been added to excerpts: 3
When someone says, “I’m going through hell,” the best response is to tell them, “Don’t stop!” Bloch maintains. If we see that pain, grief and tough times are a process and that it will get better, we’re less likely to get stuck in the hell.
Based on current evidence Bloch is a plausible candidate for creator of this adage.
In 1993 the book “Ordinary Miracles” by Linda Crew was published with a saying that closely matched the title of the 1990 article. The author gave no ascription and indicated that the expression was already in circulation 4
He studied me for a moment. “You do seem to be under a lot of stress with this. Why don’t you consider just taking a breather? Even if you’re determined to go on, nothing says you have to do it right away.”
No, I had to be done with this one way or the other. You know what they say—when you’re going through hell, for Pete’s sake, don’t stop.
Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.
- 2009-2010 Winter, Finest Hour: The Journal of Winston Churchill, Number 145, Around & About, Quote Page 9, Column 2, The Churchill Centre & Churchill Museum, Andover, Hampshire, United Kingdom. (Verified with PDF) link ↩
- 2013 December 12 (Kindle Edition Date), Churchill By Himself (Winston Churchill’s In His Own Words Collection), Compiled and edited by Richard M. Langworth, Appendix I: Red Herrings: False Attributions, Entry: If you’re going through hell, keep going. (Kindle Location 19706) ↩
- 1990 November 18, The Oregonian, Edition: Fourth, Section: Living, If You’re Going Through Hell, Don’t Stop by Jann Mitchell (The Oregonian staff), Quote Page L04, Portland, Oregon. (NewsBank Access World News) ↩
- 1993, Ordinary Miracles by Linda Crew, Quote Page 179, Published by William Morrow and Company, New York. (Verified with scans) ↩