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The Struggle

I recently listened to a couple of students give an inner life talk. One of the students has a set of twins, a boy and a girl. At the time of his talk, the twins were 9 months old, just starting to crawl. This student mentioned how he was observing his son’s struggle as he was working to learn how to move himself with his arms, legs and body. This student also made a comment about how something in him really wanted to help the child with that struggle, but yet at the same time, he understood that through struggling is how we learn. He then added “When did we lose the will to struggle in our lives?”

I really loved that question. Here’s a baby, struggling to learn how to crawl, struggling to learn how to walk, struggling to learn how to use its hands and feet to do things, tie shoes, pedal a tricycle. There is an innate willingness within each of us that knows of the goodness in the idea of struggle. When did that willingness to struggle turn into an unwillingness, a willingness to give up our lives in the moment to something that tells us “it’s too hard”, “I can’t”, “I don’t want to”, “nobody cares anyway”, “somebody else needs to deal with this”. When did that happen? Have you ever wondered about that?

I spent 21 years with a man who was willing to figure out almost anything he was working on. I myself was the opposite. For instance, when it came time to assemble a do-it-yourself project, and it came to a point where I couldn’t figure out the next step, there was just this “Here, you do it, I can’t figure it out.” Where was that innate willingness in me to struggle, to work through that moment and learn something, learn something new about myself?

When I started my nanny-on-call business in Colorado back in 2009, it had been many years since my own children were young. One day I was caring for 4-year old girl and she wanted to go outside. She put on her tennis shoes and I reached down with the intention to tie them for her. She pushed my hands away and said "I want to tie my own shoes." That moment was quite the shock for me (in a good way). I realized that something in me had made an assumption that she needed her shoes tied for her. Something in me automatically reached to do something FOR her.

In that moment, I remembered when I was approximately that child’s age and wanted to struggle to tie my own shoes, my mother often became very impatient and would grab the shoestrings from my hands and start tying my shoes for me, as if to say “You are not doing it fast or good enough.”

What I didn’t understand until later in life was how that set up a pattern in me. When I would try to learn to do something new and unfamiliar to me, that very pattern would arise. “I’m not learning it fast enough, I’m not doing it good enough, so it’s time to give up and let someone else do it for me.” But the whole key here is what was speaking to me in those moments telling me those things?

What happens when a person identifies with those voices in their mind that say “I’m not doing it well enough or I can’t do it on my own, I need help” is that from that point on, every time that person goes to do something and the moment of struggle/limitation comes (and it always will), that past pattern will unfailingly be there to speak to them “Here is the moment that you give up, and let someone else do this because you can’t figure it out”.

Those are priceless pivotal moments in our lives because they are there for us to go beyond ourselves and not repeat the past patterns that just continue to recreate themselves. Our willingness to struggle in those moments guarantees that we will be lifted above them in ways our minds can’t imagine.

Guy Finley, a truth teacher has a phrase “The feel is real but the why is a lie”. In this instance, the feel of the struggle is real, it truly feels like we are struggling because it’s painful in those moments when we meet that limitation in us. What is the why that is the lie? We believe that it is we who are struggling. I know that sounds a bit woo woo, but let me explain.

It is the past old nature in us that struggles. In the moment where we feel the struggle, what we feel is just the past that has come to visit to try to keep itself in place with the same verbal threats “You can’t”, “Just give up”, “It’s no use”. It’s just a pattern that has come to be relinquished in that moment. We must let go of it through a proper struggle by waiting and allowing something above us to guide us. It always will. That is the only way to prove that what is speaking to us, the past, is a lie.

The struggle we feel in those moments is a helpful guide because it alerts us to the fact that we need to go beyond ourselves. How else would we be aware of that?

See those moments as the gifts they are because without them, we would forever be stuck in the muck of ourselves.

Exercise for the week: If you child asks for help, let’s say with homework or with something else they are doing, don’t just jump in and automatically try to help them. Listen to their request and wait for some guidance in how you can offer them something to help them work to struggle for their own answers. Teach them how to be patient and wait for those answers.

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Photo by Porapak Apichodilok from Pexels

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