Our daily struggles often grind us down and wear us out. It is easy to become disheartened and downcast when fighting against a world that hates us. The reason it hates us is exceedingly simple. In a world built on lies and deceit, those who tell the truth are the most dangerous men of all. For this reason, the Prince of this World always tries to destroy such men. And because we are merely men, therefore flawed, broken, and Fallen, we can easily forget the reason for our tests. That reason terrifies us – as it should. It is rooted in the fact that for those to whom much is given, from them much is expected.
I’m telling you this because our good friend Kapios had an interesting request for me via a comment from a couple of days ago. I quote that request here:
If it’s not too much trouble for you, can you share a post with your opinions on prayer and dealing with the stresses of life, especially events that you can’t control?
Given that Kapios is one of my oldest and most loyal readers, I am most assuredly only too happy to oblige.
The Single Scariest Verse
Above is a video from the most excellent Dr. Frank Turek, discussing why this idea about how those who get much also have to give much scares the pants off us. This comes from probably the single scariest verse in the entire Bible. Here is the actual verse, in context:
41 Peter said, “Lord, are you telling this parable for us or for all?” 42 And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom his master will set over his household, to give them their portion of food at the proper time? 43 Blessed is that servant[i] whom his master will find so doing when he comes. 44 Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. 45 But if that servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and get drunk, 46 the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and put him with the unfaithful. 47 And that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. 48 But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.— Luke 12:41-48, English Standard Version
That is the core of our current problems as men. We are a wicked and soft generation. Because we abdicated our responsibilities, we now experience punishments in the form of crumbling, soft, weak, and broken societies.
The Great Lie
All of this rottenness stems from one simple lie. Whether it be as sons, brothers, boyfriends, colleagues, husbands, fathers, managers, or leaders, we all have the same issue. Too many of us grew up under the quite thoroughly mistaken impression that we would be rewarded simply for showing up.
That is an absolute bald-faced LIE.
Here is the truth, as brutal and painful as the whip that the world will use to beat it into you:
You don’t deserve ONE SINGLE DAMNED THING that you haven’t paid for with blood, sweat, toil, and in some cases, tears.
The sooner that you abandon the lie of “all must get prizes” and refuse to believe it, repeat it, or act according to it, the happier you will be. The better your life will become. And the easier you will find it to set your guiding star toward the truth.
The immediate corollary to this point is:
You were given IMMENSE gifts. So stop complaining and start USING them for righteous and noble ends.
The Ways Forward
All of this ties back precisely to what Kapios asked me in the beginning. The reason why the world around us seems so chaotic and crazy is precisely because we have let it become so. But this has had castatrophic consequences. The mismatch that we see between the lies and insanity of the world, and the things that we KNOW to be true, stress us out and drive us to despair.
How do we deal with this failure to accept responsibility and deliver what is expected of us, in the form of righteous conduct and behaviour? Here are several primary strategies that I highly recommend.
1. The Way of the Stoic
I have referred before to Stoicism as “the almost-solution” to the Problem of Evil. This is because Stoicism accepts that the world is indeed a broken wreck ruled over by evil – but also lays out a path toward virtue. You could basically think of it as a “grin-and-bear-it” sort of way of life. But this is an oversimplification, because it implies that Stoics just don’t allow themselves to feel pain. That is not true. Applying true Stoicism in your life is HARD. You have to feel everything that you go through – and then you simply have to learn how to let it go.
This addresses the issue of not being able to control events. Stoicism forces you to accept what you can, and cannot, control. In that respect, the Stoic mindset is indispensable to every man.
Like I said above, that is easy to say. It is really hard to do. How do you apply it? By using the next technique:
2. Apply Extreme Ownership
The idea of “extreme ownership” owes its popularity to epic badass and former Navy SEAL team leader LtCmdr Jocko Willink. You all know who he is – and if you don’t, you WILL after you watch that video.
The idea behind extreme ownership is really simple. When you phuck up, YOU. OWN. IT. You admit your responsibility and you accept, right there and right then, to yourself and in front of the whole world and God Almighty, what you did wrong.
I’ll give you one very real example of this from my own life. Right now I’m working in a team of 5 on a project. The other 4 people have VERY different personalities from me. The other day we had our interim assessment, and preparing for it was a very difficult challenge. We had to put together a presentation of quite high quality, present it in under 20 minutes, and then sit back and let another team critique our work. The whole assessment process took about 90 minutes and most of my team had never been through anything like it. They really felt under pressure.
The week leading up to that presentation was brutal. We spent truly absurd amounts of time on Zoom calls quibbling over graphics, fonts, and specific words and headings. And I, as the project manager and de facto team leader, made a number of snap decisions that really pissed off my teammates before, during, and after the presentation.
My team decided to use our next call to tell me exactly what they thought of me. And boy did they have some unpleasant things to say.
I could have gotten defensive and angry. My precious ego desperately wanted to. Doing so certainly would have made me feel a lot better – at the cost of destroying any chance of success for the project.
So, I sat there for about 40 minutes and listened to 4 other people tell me all the ways in which I had failed them.
I did not attack them, or refute them (except on a couple of points), or cut them off. I simply sat there and TOOK IT.
And, in the end, I said clearly, “you guys are right about one thing: I failed to keep track of things in a transparent way and tell people what to do and when to deliver”.
The fact that we didn’t have the time to implement such a system was irrelevant. It was MY FAULT. If you’re a project manager, you MUST give your team clear instructions and deliverables. I didn’t. So I screwed up.
That doesn’t mean that I instantly felt better. Extreme ownership, in and of itself, is NOT enough. For that you need…:
3. The Daily Prayer Rule
I’ve outlined how to do this before. Five minutes spent in prayer every night before you go to sleep, or right after you wake up, will be the most important five minutes of your entire day. Use that time to focus on what God wants from you. Do not ignore His voice, for He will speak to you in very unexpected ways.
In this respect, Kapios is in something of an unusual situation. Based on his comment, he was once a devout believer, led astray by the lies of the materialists and atheists. He is now struggling to find his way back. This is HARD to do.
To the sympathetic non-believer, I say this:
Pray even so. Don’t worry about any formal rites or liturgies. Just give thanks to God. That’s all.
If you are struggling with your daily burdens and feel overwhelmed, take a few minutes to remember all of the good things that you have.
You may think that you have nothing good in your life. To this, I say:
Are you awake, breathing, and intelligent? Then quit your bitching, because you have AWESOME power at your disposal. You have it within you, this very instant, to change your own life and the lives of others around you. Do not trivialise this power or throw it away. Damn it all, man, USE It, for your own sake if nothing else!
4. Gratitude and Forgiveness
The power of these two traits cannot be understated. If you have the capacity for gratitude, then you have the capacity for forgiveness, and vice versa.
I have been tested in ways that would break most people – nearly DID break me. Only now, when I have to work with people from a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences, do I realise just HOW MUCH those experiences changed me. Things that would frighten or rattle other people simply don’t faze me anymore. I just don’t care in the slightest about what terrifies other people during assessments or exams or coursework.
That didn’t happen by accident, though. The tests that I went through were unbelievably hard – yet, looking back on many of them, I really wonder why I fussed so much over them. I now have a much better measure of what it will take to break me – and I am not afraid.
I got there because I learned how to be grateful, and how to forgive. Trust me, it’s not easy.
And if your life is a giant ball of flaming crap, and you feel as though your only purpose for existing is to act as a warning to others – be grateful for that fact. At least you are of use to someone – which is more than can be said of most men.
5. Stop Trying to be Liked
This one is hard advice for most people. The fact is that most men WANT to be liked AND respected. But I have long since come to the conclusion that one can be respected without being liked. And I’ve made my peace with the idea that I don’t have to be nice to anyone. I simply have to hold people accountable for their responsibilities.
Note, this DOES NOT mean that you should be a dick to everyone around you. It simply means that, if someone you work with doesn’t like you, then you must simply accept it and move on.
His opinion of you does not matter – even if he is your boss or your key client. Life is obviously a lot easier if you like those people and they like you. But it is vital to remember that “all things pass, and this too shall pass”. Such ancient wisdom rings true to this day for a reason. Nothing that these people can do to you is permanent. So don’t act as though it is. Let it pass over you and through you. Accept, here and now, that you will never be fully liked by everyone – and then stop trying to please everyone.
When you accept that you’re inevitably going to piss off people by doing certain things, life suddenly becomes MUCH simpler.
Conclusion – Demand Excellence, Exhibit Resilience
As a man, you were given much. It is natural and right, therefore, to expect much of you. Certainly this is terrifying. Most men ARE terrified of the thought of actually having to give account of themselves. Yet here you are, on this broken and burning Earth, for a reason. You were given great gifts of reason, intelligence, and the will to act. Use those gifts. Build up the men around you. Accept that you, and you alone, are responsible for your life, and all of the mistakes that stem from it.
But never stop seeking help, either. Ask, and you WILL receive it. God answers those who ask Him, because He understands who we are in ways that we do not and cannot.
Above all, learn to forgive and be grateful. These two things, above all else, will make all the difference in your life.