As a coach I have become accustomed to the comments like “who pissed you off?” when the workouts I prescribe are challenging. In the same vein, I’ve looked at many workouts and dreaded the ensuing pain that I know is coming. Not injury pain, or masochistic pain, but real discomfort that is necessary to get faster and stronger.
Leaders also get used to the idea that discomfort is a necessity if they are to be effective. Whether it is leading your household, your business or on the battlefield, effective leadership is born of getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. This means unbridled discipline, effort and attention to detail that makes us uncomfortable and separates those who will lead from those who will follow.
Other Side of the Coin
On the other side of this coin is the comfort that is so alluring to which our culture holds out as our ultimate end. Avoid suffering…at all costs. This craze for comfort in our culture has resulted in a world which spends more but has less, we have larger homes but smaller families, we acquire more things but have less joy, we are more “educated” but lack wisdom and we are surrounded by conveniences but have less time. The dizzying pace to add comfort and security to our lives has skewed our vision of who we were made to be and the path we must take to get there.
What about Being a Disciple?
If we are to live an authentic Christian life this principal remains the same; get comfortable being uncomfortable. The Gospel of Matthew recounts a scene in which a scribe came up and proclaims that he will follow Jesus wherever he goes. Another disciple having heard this, felt the rub of choosing between security and comfort or surrendering everything to Christ and said “Lord, let me first go and bury my father” (Matthew 8:21). Biblical commentary has explained that the disciple was not literally asking Jesus to wait an hour or so in order to properly bury his father, but rather he felt the pull to wait until his father died so that he could acquire his father’s inheritance. This was the security he needed in place before he would follow Jesus, just in case things didn’t work out with this whole discipleship thing. Jesus replied “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead” (Matthew 8:22). Christ is calling the disciple in this scene as he calls each of us today to not be afraid and to follow him.
We want to wait until everything is in its proper place and ordered the way we think our lives should be before we truly commit to become a disciple of Christ. Jesus blows this sentiment out of the water. He doesn’t promise comfort and security, but he does promise peace and joy. The kind of peace and joy that outlasts pain and discomfort and guides us along the path of suffering.
Sacred Scripture and the history of the Church provides great consolations in that it is filled with men who blew it and had plenty of excuses not to follow Jesus. St. Paul was a murderer, St. Peter was so afraid that he couldn’t stand up to a slave girl when asked if he was a follower of Christ. Zacchaeus was short and unpopular. St. John of God was an alcoholic. St. Camillus was a con man.
So if you find yourself clinging to excuses and are putting off true surrender because you consider yourself not Holy enough, financially stable enough, you may be waiting until your kids have left the house so life is less complicated, or you may feel like you don’t know enough about the Faith to defend it, then consider yourself in good company. Christ doesn’t require us to be perfect to follow Him, He just wants our faithfulness, our yes.
If we are to become strong athletes, self-sacrificing fathers and husbands, true leaders and authentic Christian men then we must get used to the idea of getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. This path is not easy and you will be ridiculed by the world for not seeking the easy way, but remember Pope Benedict’s elegant synthesis of this truth when he said
“The world offers you comfort, but you were not made for comfort, you were made for greatness!”