If You’re Going Through Hell, Keep Going

Winston Churchill? John Randall Dunn? J. Woodruff Smith? Douglas Bloch? Linda Crew? Mario Murillo? Brian Mulroney? Wally Amos? Ron Kenoly? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Winston Churchill is often associated with quotations about steadfastness and tenacity. Consider the following saying:

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”.[ref] 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 [/ref] 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.[ref] 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)[/ref]

This adage is difficult to trace because of the malleability of its expression. The earliest evidence located by QI appeared in a religious context in the October 30, 1943 issue of the “Christian Science Sentinel” journal of Boston, Massachusetts. The saying was presented in dialog form. Boldface has been added to excerpts:[ref] 1943 October 30, Christian Science Sentinel, Volume 45, Issue 44, Section: Editorial, Binding the Power of Pain by John Randall Dunn, Start Page 1849, Quote Page 1851, Christian Science Publishing Society, Boston, Massachusetts. (Verified with full text and scans; thanks to the staff of The Christian Science Publishing Society at sentinel.christianscience.com; also thanks to Charles Doyle and the University of Georgia library system)[/ref]

Someone once asked a man how he was. He replied, “I’m going through hell!” Said his friend: “Well, keep on going. That is no place to stop!” If you seem to be going through the deep waters of physical anguish and cannot for the moment seem to gain the understanding which binds the strong man, keep on going—keep on clinging to Truth, and hear again the comforting, strengthening message, “My grace is sufficient for thee.” God, divine Love, is eternally sustaining His child, and will “bind the power of pain” as surely as the summer sun will melt the stubborn frost.

The passage above was written by a Christian Science lecturer and editor named John Randall Dunn, but the dialog was attributed to an unnamed man and his anonymous friend.

The saying appeared again in the pages of the “Christian Science Sentinel” in July 1969 in an article by J. Woodruff Smith. He also credited the dialog to anonymous individuals:[ref] 1969 July 26, Christian Science Sentinel, Volume 71, Issue 30, Truth Is the Victor by J. Woodruff Smith, Start Page 1286, Quote Page 1286, Christian Science Publishing Society, Boston, Massachusetts. (Verified with scans; thanks to Charles Doyle and the University of Georgia library system)[/ref]

A man who was going through deep waters of fear called a Christian Science practitioner. In anguish he cried, “Oh, you don’t know what I’m going through. I’m just going through hell.” With vigor his helper replied, “That’s no place to stop. Keep going.” There was a short silence. Then a ripple of amusement followed by a wave of laughter as the mesmerism burst.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

In 1990 “The Oregonian” newspaper of Portland, Oregon printed a variant instance. A self-help author and counselor named Douglas Bloch was profiled in an article that contained the following 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:[ref] 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)[/ref]

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.

Further below is a 2014 citation in which Bloch disclaimed credit for the expression, and linked it to Winston Churchill.

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[ref] 1993, Ordinary Miracles by Linda Crew, Quote Page 179, Published by William Morrow and Company, New York. (Verified with scans)[/ref]

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.

In 1994 another instance closely matching the 1990 expression was printed in religious book titled “When Lucifer and Jezebel Join Your Church” by Dick Bernal. The work began with a page of “Quotable Quotes”, and the following three statements were listed first:[ref] 1994 copyright, When Lucifer and Jezebel Join Your Church by Dick Bernal, Page Title: Quotable Quotes, Quote Page 5 (after table of contents), Published by Jubilee Christian Center, San Jose, California. (Verified with scans of second printing July 1995)[/ref]

Life is just a test. This is only a test.—Kevin Gerald
When you’re going through hell, don’t stop.—Mario Murillo
Never, never, never, never quit.—Sir Winston Churchill

The saying was ascribed to Mario Murillo, an evangelist. Note that the adjacent remark was credited to Churchill, and sometimes contiguous quotations have resulted in confusion and reassignment, but QI does not know if an error was introduced at this point.

In October 1995 an article about a shareholder meeting of Archer Daniels Midland Company was published in the “Herald & Review” of Decatur, Illinois. The ADM chairman, Dwayne O. Andreas, described a comment made to him by board member Brian Mulroney, the former Canadian prime minister. Mulroney spoke the modern version of the quotation attributed to Winston Churchill, and this was the first linkage to Churchill located by QI:[ref] 1995 October 20, Herald & Review, Section: News, ‘My rules’ – Despite dissidents, Dwayne Andreas retains a firm grip on shareholders meeting -and ADM by John C. Patterson (H&R Staff Writer), Quote Page A1, Decatur, Illinois. (NewsBank Access World News)[/ref]

Andreas closed the meeting by admitting he and the company had been through tough times lately. He said Mulroney asked him if the press had been giving him hell. When Andreas said such was the case, Mulroney quoted Sir Winston Churchill: “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”

In June 1996 Wally Amos, the founder of Famous Amos Cookies, relayed an entertaining variant of the expression during a newspaper interview:[ref] 1996 June 12, Omaha World-Herald, Edition: Sunrise, Section: Living Today, Cookie Founder Doles Out Advice by Doug Thomas (World – Herald Staff Writer), Quote Page 43sf, Omaha, Nebraska. (NewsBank Access World News)[/ref]

“A friend of mine gave me a wonderful quote,” he said. “‘When you’re going through hell, don’t stop to take pictures.”‘

In October 1997 Ron Kenoly, a popular musician and religious worship leader, employed an instance of the saying during a concert:[ref] 1997 October 8, The Florida Times-Union, Edition: City, Section: Rap, Kenoly lifts spirits high in concert by John Clark (T-U Rap staff writer), Quote Page C-2, Jacksonville, Florida. (NewsBank Access World News)[/ref]

During his performance, Kenoly offered this message to audience members who were going through tough times in their lives: “If you catch hell don’t hold it. If you’re going through hell, don’t stop. Here’s what you do: You go ahead, go ahead, go ahead, go ahead, go ahead. Don’t stop.”

In December 1997 a message was posted to the Usenet discussion system that contained an instance of the quotation attributed to Winston Churchill. The adage appeared with other sayings appended to the end of a message about the Windows 95 operating system:[ref] 1997 December 23, Usenet discussion message, Newsgroup: microsoft.public.win95.filediskmanage, From: Robert Avery Hornberg <CAS…@earthling.net>, Subject: Re: CD impersonating Neighbor’s Vacumn Cleaner. (Google Groups Search; Accessed September 13, 2014) link [/ref]

“When you’re going through hell, keep on going.” — Winston Churchill

In 2014 the author Douglas Bloch uploaded a video to “YouTube” in which he discussed the provenance of the expression containing the phrase “don’t stop”. Bloch said that he first heard it from a minister who had derived it from a remark ascribed to Winston Churchill:[ref] YouTube video, Title: When Going Through Hell, Don’t Stop!, Uploaded on May 14, 2014, Uploaded by: Douglas Bloch, Video description: “In this video, author and depression counselor Douglas Bloch shares an inspirational message from his re-published book, When Going Through Hell, Don’t Stop”. (Accessed on youtube.com on January 29, 2016) link [/ref]

Hello my name is Douglas Bloch. I am an author and a depression survivor, and I’d like to share something to you that means a lot to both Noah and myself. It’s a phrase called “When going through hell, don’t stop”.

Now, I first heard this when I was on a radio show in 1989 in California with a minister talking about affirmations, and he used this phrase, and I thought it was very, very clever. So I asked him after the show “How did you come up with it?” He said it was actually his take on a phrase that Winston Churchill had used called “When going through hell, keep going”.

In conclusion, the saying was in circulation by 1943. It appeared in a Christian Science periodical in that year in dialog form, but the attribution was anonymous. The second earliest citation was also in a Christian Science periodical in 1969.

Winston Churchill died in 1965, and QI has found no substantive evidence that he used the expression. Attributions to him appeared only many years after his death. There are two popular variants containing the phrases “keep going” or “don’t stop”, and neither has been found in the writings or speeches of Churchill.

Image Notes: Flames from PublicDomainPictures at Pixabay. Image has been cropped and resized.

(Great thanks to George Mannes whose query led QI to formulate this question and perform this exploration. Thanks to the librarians of the Bethel Seminary Library of St. Paul, Minnesota for helping to verify the 1994 citation. Thanks to the staff at sentinel.christianscience.com for help with the 1943 citation. In addition, thanks to Charles Doyle of the University of Georgia for help with the 1943 and 1969 citations. Also, thanks to Fabrizio Benedetti who told QI that Douglas Bloch had disclaimed credit for the phrase in a 2014 YouTube video.)

Update History: On January 29, 2016 the citations in 1943, 1969, and 2014 were added, and the article was partially rewritten.

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