As a general rule, the harder you work to control things, the more you lose control. The harder you try to impress someone, the more you force the conversation and seem pushy or awkward. The harder you cling to a person, the more apt he is to pull away.
Sometimes trying harder helps. But, for change beyond just pushing through something difficult, we need something more than trying harder. What if someone told you:
Try harder to relax.
Try harder to fall asleep.
Try harder to not worry.
Try harder to feel joyful.
There are limits to trying harder. John Ortberg writes that “often the people in the Gospels who got in the most trouble with Jesus were the ones who thought they were working hardest on their spiritual life. They were trying so hard to be good that they could not stop thinking about how hard they were trying. It got in the way of them loving people.” The problem with when I try harder is that I get fixated on my own heroic efforts. I grow judgmental.
Instead of making vows to have a perfect spiritual life, I try to surrender my will to the Spirit for just one day.
I pray briefly to accommodate my limited attention span.
I try to go half an hour without complaining.
I try to say something encouraging to three people in a row.
Trying softer means focusing more on God’s goodness than our efforts. It means being more relaxed and less self-concious. Less pressured. When I try softer, I am less defensive and more open to feedback. It means asking God for help.
If trying harder is producing growth in your spiritual life, keep it up. But if it’s not here’s an alternative. Try softer. Try better. Try different.
For many of my readers, this may be the first spiritually-related post you’ve read from me. Much of my content (and life) is about cooking and decorating, but it is not what defines me. I hope you enjoy thinking about an occasional question on God as you come across it on this blog. If you’d like to check out some other posts like this, I suggest Why I Don’t Believe in Prayer, Jesus & Physical Fitness, Alone, and A Word About Our Wedding. Thanks for reading. Love, Rach
For more by John Ortberg read here.