“A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.”
—Franklin D. Roosevelt
“My friends, consider yourselves fortunate when all kinds of trials come your way…”
I heard a message recently which used the metaphor of someone being in a calm lagoon, a cove. It was an idyllic setting and completely protected from powerful waves and tumult. It had warm waters too. And the person there enjoyed their swims and frolicking on the sand. It was comfortable, predictable, and overall pleasant enough.
After a while though, he noticed a sense of boredom and that his development had stalled….
After resisting his new reality and recognizing the futility of doing that, he instead began learning how to navigate the waves by noticing their rhythm and catching them as they rolled into shore. It was exhilarating. His skills increased. He became stronger.
The metaphor is a pretty accurate depiction of what it takes to develop new skills as well as depicting how alluring it is to remain in what we already know. To develop unprecedented aspects of ourselves will always require us moving out of our depth and embracing the risks that come with that.
Metaphorically, this is the choice we all get to make: staying in the cove, the comfortable protected place we’re familiar with, leaving us the same, or going out into the ocean where we’ll face unpredictability and chaos but ultimately harness new possibilities and develop new strengths and skills. There is great growth that happens when we face the things we’d rather not. It’s the type of progress which happens with our muscles through resistance training. Pushing against resistance causes growth.
Often, what we resist developing are the things we don’t like about ourselves. For instance, some people don’t like that they are easily aggravated or moved to anger. I agree that these aspects of personality are not helpful in most situations. But harnessing the assertiveness underneath this aspect of personality is arguably critically needed in life. The shadow side of anger can be developed or channeled into assertiveness. Agreeableness, which can show up as people pleasing, can be instead used for empathy and connection.
We also resist discomfort. Growth requires us going out beyond what we know and what is comfortable. Most of the times what forces us beyond our depths are the difficulties and trials life throws at us. Even if we prefer to stay in a protected comfortable space we eventually find ourselves beyond our depth in life. As the verses following James 1:2 (verses 3-4), go on to indicate though, good things can come of these trials. Primarily, the good is our maturity—our growth. What would our lives look like if we saw the difficulties as a source of possibility, or even joy (as one translation of James 1:2 says)? I assert we would be with them differently and utilize them for our benefit.
As far as which areas to engage goes, we don’t need to look far to identify which ones to address—they are the areas we’ve been reluctant to participate in. The loved ones in our lives can point us immediately to the most pressing areas if we had the courage to ask them.
So what will you choose? The predictability and peaceful cove, which leaves us the same and underdeveloped, or the turbulent, exciting and growth producing ocean?
But wait, that question is really not a valid one, because inevitably there will be storms, trials and suffering of some nature in everyone’s life. So the real question is, when they come will you have the skills and depth developed to handle them? Start the development now…