If You're Going Through Hell Keep Going - Who Said the Quote?

Updated February 16, 2024

If you’ve ever been in a really rough spot in life, someone might have offered this little tidbit of advice: “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” Who said this quote, and what does it really mean? Is there a Stoic meaning behind the quote?

Pretty much anyone you ask will tell you that this quote can be tied back to Winston Churchill. However, a number of credible sources claim that there is no evidence that Churchill wrote or spoke these words. Furthermore, some posit that the phrase was already in popular usage before Churchill would have said it.

Whether or not Churchill is the origin point of this phrase is, ultimately, secondary to the powerful message of the quote. When we are dealing with adversity, we can remind ourselves that we need to keep pushing forward rather than wallowing in our lowest point.

In this article, we’re going to explore the evidence (and lack thereof) that Churchill is actually responsible for this quote. Beyond that, we’ll talk about the Stoic meaning behind the quote and also how you can “keep going” if you’re “going through hell.”

If You’re Going Through Hell, Keep Going - Who Said It?

When you google this quote, you will find countless sources that state that it was said by Winston Churchill. It is so widely attributed to Churchill that it seems there are no other specific candidates in the running.

If you dig a little deeper, however, you find that the International Churchill Society itself states that there is no evidence that this quote was said by Churchill. Here is what the ICS has to say about the attribution of this quote to the British statesman:

“We have yet to see any correct attribution of this quote that frequently appears on the Internet and printed on motivation posters. This fake quote is not a phrase that is contained anywhere in the canon of Winston Churchill’s written or spoken words.”

This can be found on an entire site page dedicated to quotes falsely attributed to Winston Churchill on the ICS website. Many other well-known quotes are listed here as well.

So, Who Said It?

Despite the fact that the phrase "If you're going through hell, keep going" is commonly attributed to Sir Winston Churchill, there is some debate about its exact origins.

The International Churchill Society is just one voice in the crowd, of course, that states that Churchill likely isn’t responsible for this quote. However, others agree that it's possible that variations of the phrase existed before Churchill popularized it.

Nonetheless, “If you’re going through hell, keep going” is widely associated with Churchill and often cited as one of his motivational quotes emphasizing perseverance in the face of adversity.

Why Is This Quote So Powerful?

Whether or not Churchill ever said these words or wrote these words– furthermore, whether he was the origination point of this phrase– is ultimately secondary to how powerful this quote has been as a part of Churchill’s legacy and legend.

As a follower of Stoic philosophy, you were likely struck by the quite Stoic meaning behind the quote. There are countless quotes from Marcus Aurelius, Seneca the Younger, and Epictetus, along with other Stoic philosophers, that carry a similar message of persevering through adversity.

if you're going through hell keep going who said it seneca the younger image and quote

"Misfortune is virtue's opportunity." 

– Seneca the Younger

Beyond those who see the Stoic bent to the quote, though, there are a number of reasons why it has had such universal appeal. These include the focus on resilience in adversity and offering encouragement through tough times, which we all face throughout our lives, to name just a few.

The Meaning Behind the Quote

So, we might never know for sure whether Winston Churchill is the one who first coined the phrase, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”

Regardless, though, there is a lot of wisdom contained in this small handful of words.

The key point here is the suggestion of perseverance and resilience in the face of adversity.

if you're going through hell keep going who said it seneca the younger image and quote

“No man is more unhappy than he who never faces adversity. For he is not permitted to prove himself.”

– Seneca the Younger

It implies that during difficult times, it's important to keep moving forward rather than giving up or getting stuck in despair. By "going through hell," it acknowledges that life can be challenging and full of hardships, but the key to overcoming these challenges is to continue pushing forward until you reach a better place. Essentially, it emphasizes the importance of resilience, determination, and endurance in the face of those lowest, roughest, and most challenging parts of life.

Who Was Winston Churchill?

Born in 1874 and passing away in 1965, Winston Churchill was a British statesman, military leader, and author who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom during two critical periods: from 1940 to 1945 (during World War II) and again from 1951 to 1955.

Born into an aristocratic family and having a long and varied political career, Churchill served in a long list of government positions, including First Lord of the Admiralty and Chancellor of the Exchequer, before becoming Prime Minister.

Churchill is perhaps best remembered for his leadership during World War II, when he rallied the British people and inspired the Allied forces to resist the aggression of Nazi Germany. He is also famous for his stirring speeches, strong resolve, and his truly courageous refusal to surrender in the face of overwhelming odds. Churchill's leadership played a crucial role in the eventual defeat of Nazi Germany and the Axis powers. In short, he’s a really big deal.

According to the official Nobel Prize site, Churchill won the award for his:

"...mastery of historical and biographical description as well as for brilliant oratory in defending exalted human values."

He remains one of the most iconic figures of the 20th century, celebrated for his leadership, wit, and determination.

Was Winston Churchill a Stoic?

While Winston Churchill was not a Stoic philosopher in any technical sense of the term, some aspects of his character and leadership style could be interpreted as having Stoic influences.

if you're going through hell keep going who said it marcus aurelius image and quote

"The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way." 

– Marcus Aurelius

Churchill's famous quote, "If you're going through hell, keep going," echoes the Stoic idea of enduring hardship with perseverance and resilience.

Additionally, he was well known for his ability to maintain composure and lead with resolve during challenging times (think World War II), which aligns with Stoic ideals of maintaining tranquility and virtue in the midst of chaos.

Did Winston Churchill Read the Works of the Stoics?

It’s hard to state definitively that Winston Churchill extensively studied the Stoics, and there isn’t any evidence that he specifically mentioned reading their works. At the same time, Churchill was well-known to be well-read and had a keen interest in history, literature, and philosophy.

Ultimately, though, his exact reading habits and philosophical influences are not extensively documented.

It is certainly possible that Churchill encountered Stoic ideas indirectly through his education, interactions with other intellectuals, or his own personal exploration of philosophy as a learned and thoughtful man. It’s also worth noting that many Stoic principles, such as resilience in the face of adversity and the importance of virtue, were embedded in Western philosophical traditions and literature. This means that Churchill may have been (and likely was) exposed to these ideas through a wide variety of different sources over his life.

Understanding the Philosophy of Churchill

Churchill lived a long and rich life, and it’s important to note that any individual’s philosophy is likely going to change over time as they gain new experiences and continue to learn and grow.

That being said, there are a number of key elements that are often associated with the leadership, mindset, and philosophy of Churchill. These include:

  • Pragmatism: Churchill was known for his pragmatic approach to politics and governance. He believed in taking practical measures to address immediate challenges and adapt to changing circumstances rather than adhering rigidly to ideology.
  • Liberalism: Churchill was a staunch defender of liberal democracy and individual freedom. Throughout his political career, he advocated for the protection of civil liberties and the rule of law.
  • Nationalism: Another important part of Churchill’s philosophy was that he had a strong sense of national pride and patriotism, particularly during times of crisis.He emphasized the importance of national unity and collective action in the face of external threats.
  • Realism: Churchill was known for being a realist in international relations, recognizing the complexities of geopolitics and the importance of power dynamics between nations. He famously said, "In war, resolution; in defeat, defiance; in victory, magnanimity."
  • Optimism: Despite facing tons of intense challenges and setbacks throughout his life, Churchill maintained an optimistic outlook and belief in the eventual triumph of good over evil. He inspired hope and determination in the British people during World War II with his stirring speeches and unwavering resolve.

As you can see, many of the key points of his thinking are directly related to his role as the leader of Britain and the world-shaking circumstances of World War II. At the same time, he maintained an optimistic perspective that helped carry the British people through the harrowing events of WWII.

How to “Keep Going” When You’re Going Through Hell

Now that we’ve extensively looked at the origin and meaning of this quote, along with the life and ideas of Winston Churchill, it’s time to get down to brass tacks.

“If you’re going through hell, keep going” is, in one sense, good advice.

But what does that really mean in practice? What can you do to really keep putting one foot in front of the other despite the hardship you’re facing?

Let’s take a look at a number of practical Stoic ideas you can use to march forth through adversity and get yourself out of hell.

Amor Fati

Amor Fati, or the love of one's fate, is a concept that encourages embracing all aspects of life, even the most challenging ones.

Instead of resisting or lamenting difficult circumstances, Amor Fati teaches us to accept them wholeheartedly and find meaning in every experience, regardless of whether it seems positive or negative. When going through hell, adopting Amor Fati allows us to transform suffering into an opportunity for growth and self-improvement. Rather than dwelling on what could have been, we focus on what is and strive to make the best of it.

Gain Perspective

Another important aspect of Stoicism is its emphasis on gaining perspective, especially during times of hardship.

By zooming out and taking a broader view of our situation, we can often see that our struggles are just a small part of the larger tapestry of life. When we work to gain “Plato’s View,” as Marcus Aurelius called it, it enables us to recognize that while our current circumstances may be challenging, they are temporary and will eventually pass.

Additionally, gaining perspective can help us identify opportunities for learning and personal development amidst the most challenging points in life. By reframing our challenges as opportunities for growth, we empower ourselves to overcome them with grace and resilience. Sounds pretty good.

Control Your Mindset

One of the central tenets of Stoicism is the idea that we have control over our thoughts and attitudes, even when we may not have control over external events.

if you're going through hell keep going who said it seneca the younger image and quote

“We suffer more often in imagination than in reality.”

– Seneca the Younger

When going through hell, it's crucial to cultivate a resilient mindset that enables us to maintain inner peace and clarity amidst chaos.

Stoic practices such as negative visualization and premeditation Malorum (the premeditation of evils) can help us prepare mentally for adversity and develop the emotional resilience needed to endure it. By focusing on what is within our control - our thoughts, attitudes, and actions - we can navigate through hell with a sense of purpose and inner strength.

Take Action

Another thing we can do when we feel like we’re just absolutely getting destroyed by the circumstances of life is to get moving and start taking action.

This is emphasized in the writings of the great Stoics, who advocate for proactive engagement with our circumstances.

If we’re going through hell, taking action allows us to regain a sense of agency and control over our lives. Whether it's small steps toward a solution or simply maintaining a routine amidst what feels like complete chaos, every action we take reinforces our resilience and determination to persevere.

When we focus on what is within our control and take deliberate steps toward improvement, we empower ourselves to navigate through hell with purpose and resolve.

Look to the Greats

If you feel like you’ve hit rock bottom, it might be time to turn to some mentors and role models.

Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, and other Stoic philosophers encourage us to draw inspiration from the wisdom and examples of those who have faced adversity with grace and courage. By studying the lives and teachings of great Stoic philosophers themselves, we gain valuable insights into how to navigate life's challenges with resilience and virtue.

  • Moreover, looking to historical figures and contemporary role models who have overcome similar struggles can provide us with encouragement and guidance during those moments when we feel like we just can’t go on.

By learning from the experiences of the greats, we realize that we are not alone in our journey through hell and that others have triumphed over adversity through strength of character and unwavering resolve. In fact, it can be a real reality slap when you realize just how adverse the lives of some of the most fascinating, powerful, and influential people have truly been.

If you’re stuck in a rough spot, consider starting to read some biographies of great figures from our current world or the past. Whether it’s a biography of Churchill, Epictetus, or your favorite athlete, you’ll likely find that strong individuals are able to overcome truly unreal circumstances.

Stoic Quotes About Perseverance and Resilience

Before we jump into some of the most powerful quotes attributed to Winston Churchill, let's take a look at a handful of quotes from the great Stoics about continuing on when the winds are against us.

“I judge you unfortunate because you have never lived through misfortune. You have passed through life without an opponent— no one can ever know what you are capable of, not even you.”

– Seneca the Younger

“To be like the rock that the waves keep crashing over. It stands unmoved and the raging of the sea falls still around it.”

— Marcus Aurelius

“Do not seek for things to happen the way you want them to; rather, wish that what happens happen the way it happens: then you will be happy.”

– Epictetus

“Everything that happens is either endurable or not. If it’s endurable, then endure it. Stop complaining. If it’s unendurable… then stop complaining. Your destruction will mean its end as well. Just remember: you can endure anything your mind can make endurable, by treating it as in your interest to do so. In your interest, or in your nature.”

— Marcus Aurelius

Powerful Quotes By Winston Churchill

I know, I know. Churchill might not have said, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” It’s also possible that he didn’t say some of the quotes on our list, a few of which show up on the misattributed quotes list of the International Churchill Society.

That being said, one really can’t overstate just how influential Churchill and his inspirational words have been in our world. Fact and myth can get quite muddled when we’re dealing with such a huge figure in history.

Ultimately, though, there are some pretty incredible quotes that are attributed to Churchill that we can turn to when we need some advice or inspiration. Here are some of the most famous and most powerful quotes attributed to the great British statesmen, organized based on the central topic at hand.


if you're going through hell keep going who said it seneca the younger image and quote

“To bear trials with a calm mind robs misfortune of its strength and burden.” 

– Seneca the Younger

“Kites rise highest against the wind - not with it.”

– Winston Churchill

“We shall draw from the heart of suffering itself the means of inspiration and survival.”

– Winston Churchill

“We shall go forward together. The road upwards is stony. There are upon our journey dark and dangerous valleys through which we have to make and fight our way. But it is sure and certain that if we persevere - and we shall persevere - we shall come through these dark and dangerous valleys into a sunlight broader and more genial and more lasting than mankind has ever known.”

– Winston Churchill

“When danger is far off we may think of our weakness; when it is near we must not forget our strength.”

– Winston Churchill

“You never can tell whether bad luck may not after all turn out to be good luck.”

– Winston Churchill


“Continuous effort - not strength or intelligence - is the key to unlocking our potential.”

– Winston Churchill

“Never give up on something that you can't go a day without thinking about.”

– Winston Churchill

“Sure I am of this, that you have only to endure to conquer.”

– Winston Churchill

“Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never -- in nothing, great or small, large or petty -- never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense.”

– Winston Churchill

“We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”

– Winston Churchill

Mindset and Personal Growth

“Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.”

– Winston Churchill

“To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.”

– Winston Churchill

“If you simply take up the attitude of defending a mistake, there will be no hope of improvement.”

– Winston Churchill

“The positive thinker sees the invisible, feels the intangible, and achieves the impossible.”

– Winston Churchill

Meaning in Life and Ambition

“No one ever finds life worth living - one has to make it worth living.”

– Winston Churchill

“It is one thing to see the forward path and another to be able to take it. But it is better to have an ambitious plan than none at all.”

– Winston Churchill

Dealing With Other People

“I no longer listen to what people say, I just watch what they do. Behavior never lies.”

– Winston Churchill

“You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks.”

– Winston Churchill


“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

– Winston Churchill

“When you're 20 you care what everyone thinks, when you're 40 you stop caring what everyone thinks, when you're 60 you realize no one was ever thinking about you in the first place. You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life.”

– Winston Churchill

“Fear is a reaction. Courage is a decision.”

– Winston Churchill

“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”

– Winston Churchill

Success and Failure

“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”

– Winston Churchill

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”

– Winston Churchill

“He who fails to plan is planning to fail.”

– Winston Churchill

“It is no use saying, 'We are doing our best.' You have got to succeed in doing what is necessary.”

– Winston Churchill

“Criticism is easy; achievement is difficult.”

– Winston Churchill

“You must put your head into the lion's mouth if the performance is to be a success.”

– Winston Churchill

Optimism and Pessimism

“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

– Winston Churchill

“I am an optimist. It does not seem too much use being anything else.”

– Winston Churchill

Taking Action

“It is better to do something than to do nothing while waiting to do everything.”

– Winston Churchill

“It is better to be making the news than taking it, to be an actor rather than a critic.”

– Winston Churchill

“Without execution, thinking is mere idleness.”

– Winston Churchill


“The price of greatness is responsibility.”

– Winston Churchill

“Any clever person can make plans for winning a war if he has no responsibility for carrying them out.”

– Winston Churchill

“If we look to our responsibility to the generations yet unborn who will come after us, how can we fail to recognize that peace and freedom are inextricably bound up one with another and that the threat to one is a threat to both.”

– Winston Churchill

Moving Forward

“The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you can see.”

– Winston Churchill

“Mountaintops inspire leaders but valleys mature them.”

– Winston Churchill

The Past, the Present, and the Future

“The future is unknowable, but the past should give us hope.”

– Winston Churchill

“History unfolds itself by strange and unpredictable paths. We have little control over the future; and none at all over the past.”

– Winston Churchill

“If the past sits in judgment on the present, the future will be lost.”

– Winston Churchill

“I am quite sure, that if we open a quarrel between the past and the present, we shall find that we have lost the future.”

– Winston Churchill

“In the past we have had a light which flickered, in the present we have a light which flames, and in the future there will be a light which shines over all the land and sea.”

– Winston Churchill

“We are shaping the world faster than we can change ourselves, and we are applying to the present the habits of the past.”

– Winston Churchill

“A nation that forgets its past has no future.”

– Winston Churchill

“History with its flickering lamp stumbles along the trail of the past, trying to reconstruct its scenes, to revive its echoes, and kindle with pale gleams the passion of former days.”

– Winston Churchill

Making Mistakes

“It is a mistake to look too far ahead. Only one link of the chain of destiny can be handled at a time.”

– Winston Churchill

“I am sure that the mistakes of that time will not be repeated; we should probably make another set of mistakes.”

– Winston Churchill

“There is no greater mistake than to suppose that platitudes, smooth words, timid policies, offer today a path to safety.”

– Winston Churchill

“Don't take 'no' for an answer, never submit to failure. Do not be fobbed off with mere personal success or acceptance. You will make all kinds of mistakes, but as long as you are generous and true, and also fierce, you cannot hurt the world or events.”

– Winston Churchill


“All men make mistakes, but only wise men learn from their mistakes.”

– Winston Churchill

“It is always wise to look ahead, but difficult to look further than you can see.”

– Winston Churchill

“Don't be content to be the chip off the old block - be the old block itself.”

– Winston Churchill

“Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened.”

– Winston Churchill

Stoicism and Growth Through Adversity

If you’re going through hell, the last thing you feel like doing is to just “keep going.” The famous quote paraphrased here may or may not have been spoken by Winston Churchill, one of the most well-known and well-regarded leaders in modern history. Whether or not he was the origin of these words (and whether or not he ever spoke or wrote them at all), this is a very useful phrase for us to remember to forge forth even when we feel the flames licking our heels.

Stoicism has become increasingly popular in recent years due to its ability to help people do exactly that: find inner tranquility despite the chaos that surrounds them and take control over the things they actually can control.

Are you thinking about diving deeper into Stoicism to help you walk the path to the good life? If so, make sure you check out the rest of our Stoic Quotes blog!

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Written by: Sophia Merton
Sophia received her BA from Vassar College and has always maintained a deep interest in the question of how best to live one’s life. She hopes to help others understand how they can apply Stoicism in their day-to-day lives in order to become the person they want to be, embrace the present moment, pursue their purposes, and rid themselves of unnecessary anxiety.

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