Monday, September 24, 2018

Hardship and Softship

Everybody has problems. We grow the most through the difficult times. Everybody knows that. But no one wants the difficult times. They just come as a part of life.

And no two people experience the same level of difficulty. Some people scavenge for food, dodge bullets, face chronic pain, deal with depression, cope with financial pressure, struggle in relationships, fend off criticism, dread the future, or regret the past.

For others, life is easy. The bills are paid, people are healthy, work is rewarding, problems are few, the future looks bright.

Everyone experiences hardship and "softship." The degree of each varies with every individual. Sometimes I wonder what the perfect balance is.

And we actually do have some level of control in our balance of hardship and ease. We can load up our schedules with challenges. We can attempt difficult tasks. We can push ourselves to the limit with exercise or academics or business goals. When we do this, we create our own hardships, and we create opportunities for personal growth. Remember, we grow the most through the hard times.

So, we challenge ourselves and we grow.

But sometimes the challenges are not of our choosing. We have an accident, contract an illness, lose a job, lose a loved one. Or we lack education, live in a crime-ridden community, find ourselves betrayed.

Similarly, some good things are not of our choosing. You can't choose where you are born or your family of origin, whether good or bad. And, of course we all know people who just get all the breaks. They get the promotions, the looks, the health, the opportunities. They make the good grades without even trying. Everything comes so easily for them. Not much hardship there.

So, how do we find the balance of hardship and softship? Here are my thoughts.
  • Go for the challenges. Sign up for some hard things.
  • Embrace the unwanted struggles. You don't want them, but you can leverage them for powerful growth.
  • Trust God to bring the right balance. He wants you to thrive, and he wants you to grow.
  • Don't rob others of the growth that comes through struggle. Don't rescue too much.
Ultimately, the balance between hardship and softship is a mystery of life. We want to avoid the hard things, but they are the source of soul transformation. It's where we become all that God created us to be.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Vontae Davis and the Hit of Reality

Yesterday at half-time, Buffalo Bills corner back Vontae Davis decided that his football career was over. He retired after 10 years in the NFL, in a way that surprised everyone. News outlets covered his retirement and he explained his decision on Twitter.

He found criticism and support on social media. Critics faulted him for letting down the team. Supporters praised him for following his heart.

What strikes me is the way he came to his decision. "But today on the field, reality hit me fast and hard: I shouldn't be out there anymore." He could no longer live up to his high standard of competition. It was time to quit. Right now.

I applaud him because he could see that the "warrior mentality" no longer served him well. It had kept him playing football at the highest level for a decade. But he had to move on. There is more to life than the next game, the next playoffs.

He has dished out and received countless hits on the field. But this time he was hit by something harder than a 300 lb. offensive lineman. He was hit by reality.

I applaud him because he realized what was really happening. He had to take a good, hard look at his life and where it was heading. He stopped doing the next thing, and made a life-altering choice. He had the courage to make that choice, suddenly and publicly.

What do we do when reality hits us? Too often we ignore it and try to deaden the pain. We stay busy. We turn the music up louder. We double down on the same old stuff. We stubbornly refuse to change. Maybe we lack the support we need. Maybe we lack the courage. Maybe we prefer to deny reality and continue in our dream world.

For Vontae Davis, it did not take a career ending injury. It did not take divorce papers from his wife. It did not take being cut from the team. He chose to make a change because he woke up when reality hit him.

I need to wake up like that every day.