There’s a Greek proverb that says “he who sweats more in training bleeds less in war.” We can see our struggles as impossible to overcome or we can see our struggles as training—as opportunities to grow. But do we know how to overcome struggles?
I have to be careful about how I try to handle my biggest struggles. If I don’t stay on guard, my struggles can get the best of me. Over the years, I’ve noticed some things that need work. Here are 3 of my biggest struggles and how I’m working on them.
1. Being a Porcupine
Do you know about the porcupine? You no doubt know about its quills, which can number as many as 30,000. But, when it’s mad, it stamps its feet, hisses, places its snout between its forelegs, and spins around, showing its rear to the other animal. In my younger years, I was like a porcupine. I was easily irritated and lashed out when things didn’t go my way. I regret those times and have learned from them greatly.
Part of the battle with this porcupine struggle of mine is to recognize it. Another big part of trying to overcome this tendency is setting my own expectations. It’s fine to have high expectations, but should I expect others to care about something as much as I do? Probably not. How will I react when others don’t meet that expectation? It may be as simple as taking a quiet moment to myself when I feel like lashing out. In those moments, I’ve learned to extend grace and understanding, seeing things from others’ perspectives rather than solely my own.
2. Thinking My Way Is the Best Way
For many years, without even knowing it, I often thought my way was the best way. I continue to learn that that’s not always true. In a recent conversation about a boss, my adult child said to me, “My boss doesn’t really listen to me. I hope you listen to people and take their opinions and thoughts into consideration.” I was floored. Do I really listen—in my marriage, at work, and in life?
To guard against thinking my way is the best way, I try my best to seek first to listen. It sounds so simple, but considering others’ thoughts before my own is a learned skill. Whether in marriage or work, take time to listen and value those around you. For me, this only happens if I don’t rush through my daily task list. Instead, I have learned to reflect more on how I’m doing things and who I’m involving rather than simply marking something off of my to-do list for the day. How we do things matters equally as much as what we do.
3. Having a Critical Spirit
There’s a time for giving constructive criticism or helpful feedback. For example, in marriage, you can give helpful feedback to your spouse. But I’ve found that you must use it sparingly. Early in my marriage, I would have a critical spirit toward Susan. I had to learn how hurtful I was being. If criticism is the biggest part of your communication with your spouse, you are hurting more than helping.
In the last few years, I’ve learned to fight critical words with words that build up or encourage. You can replace negative words that demean or cause harm with positive phrasing. I often add reminders to myself at the top of my calendar to encourage Susan. Or I’ll place yellow sticky notes on the bathroom mirror so she finds them and is uplifted. To guard against having a critical spirit, I try to ask myself, “Are my words building up or tearing down?”
What’s the most important truth you’ve ever learned about how to overcome struggles? Share in a comment below.