Working out is hard. The death of a loved one is hard. Feeling betrayed at work is hard. Making new friends is hard. The New York Times crossword puzzle is hard. And none of those things feel even remotely like one another.
This is partly a linguistic failing, and partly a reality that there are a lot of different ways things can be challenging. Part of the problem with comparing struggles in any context is that hardship doesn’t tend to be a scale as much as a three-dimensional object. Our tolerance for that struggle is as affected as much by intensity as it is by the position we are in when we encounter it, and our particular tolerance for certain types of hard things.
When we talk about the life we want, we tend to focus on the good things we want – the family, the faith, the work, the relationships. We know there are lots of definitions of the good life, and we decide what type of good life (focused on our family? Creatively fulfilling? Impacting our community for the better?) we pursue. We make decisions in pursuit of the type of good we want in our life.
But I wonder if we can also consider the type of difficulty we are aiming for? Your job being hard because the work is complicated, and your job being hard because your workplace is toxic, are different. I wonder if we can consider what kind of ‘hard’ we want to sign up for in our lives, our families, our work? I wonder if accepting that all pathways include struggle allows us to more gratefully embrace the lives we have, including their struggles, or helps us feel empowered to make brave changes?
I told some of my friends when I was at an old job that I sometimes felt like work was a cheese-grater to my soul. It was demoralizing, defeating, and made me not only dislike my work, but my workplace, my clients, my colleagues, and ultimately myself.
I’m a new parent now, and work part-time at Ministry Incubators while taking care of my infant twins. It’s very hard. It’s overwhelming, exhausting, and I sometimes feel like I am doing an inadequate job at all of it. It’s hard on my body, my legs and back hurt every day from hauling 40+ pounds of babies around, and my nerves get fried by trying to keep my brave little daughter from smacking her head on every hard surface in sight while I’m on a work call via bluetooth headphones.
But to the soul? To the soul this is a season where I feel like God has truly led me to lay down in green pastures. My body hurts a lot more than it did at my old job, but my heart feels so healed. This is the type of hard that I would choose over and over again.
Sometimes we are afraid to make changes in our lives or in our organization because it will be hard. But we can be liberated by realizing that every path we take is hard, and what we get to decide is what kind of ‘hard’ we sign up for.
Starting new things is hard. Innovation is hard. Building something out of nothing is hard. Change is hard.
Gradual decline is also hard. Stagnation is hard. Boredom is hard. Losing the fire that brought you into ministry is hard.
And there’s one of those types of hard that I know I would choose over the other, and if you’re reading this blog, we’re probably on the same page. This week, evaluate what is hard in your life, and consider if it’s the type of hard you would choose. Obviously some struggles are totally outside of our control, but not all of them are. Some of our struggles we get to choose, and that can be an incredible gift.
If you’re ready to explore a hard-in-a-new-way change in your ministry, talk to our team and we will talk about ways we can (lovingly) wreck your whole job, and maybe make it a lot more fun in the process.