From early childhood, boys and girls have the capacity to understand difficulty and one level or another. As a toddler, one of my oft-repeated phrases was, “hard to do!” Whether it was picking up my toys or straining to reach some desired object beyond my reach, if something was difficult for me, I would stubbornly exclaim, “hard to do!” Unfortunately, the attitude often continues beyond the “cute” toddler years into elementary school, middle school, high school, and even college and adulthood. When a situation becomes difficult, our first reaction is to tell the world, then quit.
Just today, in a high school English class, one of my students, when asked to write what he would do with an extra fifty dollars a week, responded that he would spend it to pay someone to do his homework. Another student wrote that he would not do anything with it because even spending it required too much work. Whoa! This was the first time I had ever heard of anyone being too lazy to spend “free” money! The problem was not in the response of these students, but in the underlying, pervasive mentality that if something is hard, it is not worth doing.
If someone asked me to list things that were difficult for me, I would identify the following things: sports (I am not naturally athletically talented like my brother), training horses, getting up early, lifting weights, time management, lifeguarding (or at least staying awake while lifeguarding), prioritizing, and saying no to people. None of these things are necessarily “normal;” even though I do not always enjoy the assignments, school and homework are easy for me. Yet, in evaluating my list of “hard things,” none of those things are intrinsically bad. There is nothing on the list that should be abandoned just because it is difficult. Sports, although frustrating at times, are some of my favorite things to do with my time. I love volleyball even though I have to work just to be an average player. Bicycling is great for relaxing mentally while getting good exercise, but I’m not an extraordinary cyclist either. Lifting weights burns fat and builds muscle, both things that my body needs to do, but I get discouraged easily at my own weakness. Getting up early would be great if I got to bed earlier, but because of my difficulties prioritizing and managing my time, neither happens consistently. Yet, getting up early to read my Bible and pray in the mornings is something I’m committed to doing, regardless of how tired I am. Obviously, prioritizing and managing my time are things that I need to do a better job of, yet I consistently push myself to the limit to please everyone and to stay involved fully with every activity possible.
On Saturday, I took my horse, Symphony, down to Salamonie River State Forest to take part in a hunter pace. Riding the trails and jumps was incredibly fun, but I was once again struck with the irony of the phrase, “hard to do.” You would think that going uphill would be difficult, would require additional effort, and would be a generally disagreeable notion for an extraordinarily lazy horse. Symphony’s attitude toward hills is completely the opposite. She loves them. As we cantered along at a nice slow pace and encountered a hill, she instantly notched it up a gear, racing excitedly up the hill. Every single time we approached a hill, Symphony sped up, attacking the hill with energy and vigor.
Symphony’s attitude toward hills is to be admired. Despite her typical laziness, she aggressively rises to the challenge of a hill. When I encounter “hard to do” things, I should aspire to the same attitude. The little difficulties that I encounter throughout my life are no different than Symphony’s hills. Instead of seeing them as insurmountable obstacles that are “hard to do,” I should adopt Symphony’s perspective and see them as a challenge to be conquered and a source of joy. The things that are difficult (hills and jumps) bring Symphony the most joy (outside of eating). In the same way, it is in the “hard to do” things that I also can find joy.