Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Hard Things

"You must do the thing which you think you cannot do." Eleanor Roosevelt

"You can do hard things." Kat Griffith, mother of 5, Mentone, Alabama (Every bit as capable, just not as famous as Eleanor.)

Kat's words propelled me with purpose and determination in encouraging my children and me through the years. Sometimes we need encouragement when we are facing a tough task, and sometimes we need help. We cannot know what another person needs, but we can offer both.

We must not be too hasty to step in and help when the value to the other person is in learning what they can do for themselves. How does one develop a work ethic to carry him or her through challenges if someone else swoops in early and often to perform the task? I let that quote play repeatedly when facing tough times: “You can do hard things.”

Yet there are times when we need to ask for help. There is no shame is getting to the limit of our ability to manage or to cope with a new situation. We need a model for help.

Rarely would I allude to popular culture as an example for behavior, but the old Who Wants to be a Millionaire fits here. This show continues to grow around the world with Arab World, Russian, Hungarian, Poland, and Thai among the many versions, and a recent one just began in The Netherlands last month. The show in the U.S. had several ‘lifelines’ contestants could take hold of when they had exhausted their own knowledge and faced certain elimination in their quest for dollars.

The 50-50 lifeline was all about eliminating options. Narrow the field. Cut to the chase. Some people find a way to focus on a tough challenge at hand by excising extraneous distractions. Simply cut out something when there is too much going on. 50-50, when employed as a survival strategy, can work wonders. The hard part is knowing what to save and what to jettison.

Phone-a-Friend was an option where a knowledgeable friend waited on standby, ready to answer the troublesome question. It helped to have a friend with both a broad and deep knowledge base at one’s fingertips. Such a well-placed call is a lifesaver.

On the rare occasions when my teenage brothers got vehicles impossibly stuck in a creek bed, they knew one call to Uncle Gervase was sufficient. Fast, confidential service with a trusty winch every time. Home before supper. Guaranteed. I always wanted a magic number like that.

Many employ this means as a valid model today when they get in a jam.

Call someone who knows you and cares. We can usually do pretty well with this one. But sometimes we keep up the impression of competence and success even with our friends when, as my young friend said, "we're dying inside." Honestly can be hard work too. The chasm grows and we feel isolated.

Poll-the-Audience as a lifeline option gave the contestant in mere seconds the collective insight of a broader group to weigh in with their opinion. This worked effectively with such topics as movies or TV shows where superficial, pop-culture knowledge was needed. Many today live poll-the-audience lives, curiously watching others so as to move in synch with swelling or waning cultural tides.

It seems disastrous to let what everybody else is doing be a guide for life, but we are doing it with a frenzy. Who is our audience? If one’s audience is a small group of committed friends, or a community of folks who walk alongside in support, or a very present friend or mentor, then we can trust their opinion so much more with important matters. It all depends on the audience.

Can we learn to trust an audience of one? That’s the million dollar question to me.

Life’s hard things take us to a breaking point at times. We need all the help we can get. There are promises of wisdom, discernment, comfort, assurance, conviction -- all the things we need as we traverse this road -- if we but ask.

Let the lifelines take us first to the One who knows us better than we know ourselves and gives wisdom liberally to those who ask.

"Your Father knows the things you need before you ask of Him." Matthew 6:8

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