I was reading a BBC article on the Finish concept of sisu and I was intrigued by everything it stood for and decided it needed further exploration!
The notion of sisu was popularised in the 1920s and literally means ‘guts’ but often refers to a person’s courage, resilience, tenacity or just sheer doggedness.
Sisu as a concept has shaped the Finnish people and a whole nation.
These are qualities not unique to Finns alone but they have been able to articulate it as a concept and as a form of national identity to build their own narratives.
Ultimately, sisu is not about boasting about one’s bravado but rather the inner strength one needs in the face of adversity.
Sisu as a philosophy was instrumental in galvanising the Finnish nation in 1939 when it was overrun and invaded by the Soviet Union who had three times as many soldiers and over a hundred times as many tanks. In order to defeat a materially superior foe and regain their independence, the Finns had to call upon their spiritual abundance of sisu and a combination of tactical nous and mastery of the terrain.
“Rather than the stamina to run up a mountain, sisu is the strength it takes to put one foot in front of the other.”
– Joanna Nylund
Sisu though is not just about the individual, but rather the collective. It is about communal strength; it is about equality, across genders and tribes; it is ultimately about collective unity and strength.
The Finns claim that it’s a combination of their weather, their stark landscape which they have survived over centuries and their sense of independence and purpose that has cultivated their sense of sisu.
Ways one can consider building sisu is through being one with nature, observing and appreciating the natural life around us; being comfortable in silence and appreciating the meaning of the gift of time; and ultimately being resilient by dealing with a difficult or uncomfortable situation in a positive manner.
So go forth with sisukas (full of sisu) and live life with sisulla ja sydämellä (with sisu and heart).
For further great resources on sisu, I will suggest some of the following resources: