The Value of the Right Hard Things

With the recent men's and women's NCAA basketball tournament I've been chewing on the connection between sports and character. Athletes often live out in real time, concepts we're all struggling to work out in daily life. I'd love to hear about your experiences with sports and how they've shaped you. Feel free to drop me a line or comment below. 

Tenacious (adjective):

  • not easily stopped or pulled apart : firm or strong

  • continuing for a long time

  • very determined to do something  (source). 

As a young athlete of fourteen I was identified as a 'tenacious defender' by our local newspaper. I was about midway through my 12 year basketball career and those words were powerful. They hit me in the midst of my awkward teenage years and made me even more willing to dive after loose balls. 

To be frank, I'm not sure I'd heard of the word tenacious prior to the article. But when somebody identified that trait in me, in the way I played, I knew it's who I wanted to be. It was like someone switched on the light bulb and I could finally see what I already had my hands on. 

Since then, I've learned there is some nuance with tenacity. Here's what I mean: not everything is worth 'staying with' or 'continuing for a long time.' 

I certainly don't want to stay with attitudes which harm me. I don't want to stay with fixing something that is not mine to fix. I don't want to stay with careers that are meant to change. And I don't want to stay with relationships that are meant to dissolve. 

There's obviously a paradox in regards to persistence. The paradox is tenacity is a worthwhile trait, but only when applied to things which will cause us to grow in healthy ways. Otherwise, we risk allowing toxic influences to eat at us like gangrene. 

However, leaning into the right hard things causes our deepest and most profound growth. 

Does this mean the 'right hard things' won't make you ache and stretch and groan at times? Nope. They absolutely will. 

Sometimes after a hard parenting day of explosive tantrums you may be ready to weep and wave your white flag. Or after another uncomfortable conversation at church or with your spouse, you may want to just run. 

But we can know these things are worth our tenacity because of the fruit they bear. (Note: this is not true of situations where spiritual, physical, or emotional abuse is occurring). 

So if you're having difficulty deciphering what is worth your persistence, here's a few questions to ask yourself:  

  • Am I safe? Literally, are you physically and emotionally safe as you pursue what you're considering? Is the relationship safe? This is different than growing pains or the experience of being stretched, because it threatens your human dignity, value, or physicality. 
  • Is it in line with my values? Do you have to give up important pieces of who you are in order to continue? If so, it may be worth re-considering. 
  • Does it allow me to focus on what I can control vs. trying to fix a character flaw in someone else? Anytime we place ourselves in a situation where we are dependent on someone else changing for us, we are in tough waters. If another wants to change by their own desire and conviction, that's great. Take note though if you find your future or happiness is dependent on another.
  • Am I willing to work for it? Are you willing to experience some discomfort in order to achieve your goal?

My hope today is that we each have the wisdom to discern the situations, relationships, and activities worth our tenacity and that we invest ourselves deeply and courageously. 

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us..." (Hebrews 12:1 NIV)