I watched a guy almost drown in Cabo last week.
The beach there is nasty – there’s one 12 foot break 100 yards from the beach – people get sucked into it and drown all the time. On this particular day there was a rip current that yanked two guys, who decided to go swimming at a black-flagged area, into the break. One guy made it out, the other guy was in for five minutes or so. I’ve never seen someone that exhausted, that close to going under.
Someone showed up with a rescue buoy and a very long rope. Another guy swam it out to drowning guy and they were both dragged to shore.
My kids were watching. I had to wrestle with a bit of PTSD for the rest of our trip.
Shortly after, we watched a sea turtle lay eggs on the beach. Can you imagine? An animal that spends 99.99% of her life in the water – deep, cold water – climbs onto the beach, crawls for 50 yards or so in the 95 degree Mexican heat – super hot sand – spends about an hour digging a hole with her flippers, then delivers her ~75 eggs. Then another 10 minutes across the scorching sand into the water.
And maybe one of her eggs will make it.
Shortly after that I rescued a baby bird who had fallen into the pool. The poor thing was so scared and exhausted that it wouldn’t let me put it down, it kept trying to crawl back into my hand.
The kids were thrilled, they got to pet it, fawn over it, etc.
We left her under a cactus with some bread crumbs – probably ended up being lunch for the local gatos, but please don’t tell my kids that.
Later that day I found myself under a palapa at the swim-up bar contemplating life.
For some reason – God knows why – everything with a heartbeat on this planet has to struggle – a lot.
Sure, we all get a great story now and again, but every happy ending seems to be a transition into a new struggle – there’s always a gang of gatos hiding just behind the cactus.
I’m done asking why. I know God has His reasons, but for me to understand, I’d have to experience suffering the way He does, and nobody could handle that.
And it seems to me that the more good we try to do in this world, the more struggle we’ll be signing up for.
Wanna have a good, solid, meaningful marriage? Struggle. Wanna raise great kids? Struggle. Wanna kick ass at work, live for Jesus, help people?
Wanna avoid it all? You can’t. The people that try to run have the biggest targets on their heads – they’ll struggle far more than the ones who face their allotment of crap.
The Gatos Are Coming For You
A bad attitude is driven by the belief that your struggle isn’t fair, that whatever you’re going through shouldn’t be happening, which is a really bad thing to believe in this place.
But what should we believe about our struggles? The typical Christian response is something akin to “Hardship makes us better,” and “Suffering is God’s way of getting our attention.” I wouldn’t argue any of these, but none make our struggles any easier.
The most popular advice is “positive thinking,” which is little more than repression – denying that things are bad; something any psychotherapeutic professional would tell you to avoid like the plague.
The Best Attitude Adjustment You Can Make
Our struggles will always be with us. They’re just as much a staple of our lives as things like peace, happiness, joy, beauty, and free drinks at the swim-up bar.
If you don’t quickly jettison the belief that your struggles aren’t fair, or that they shouldn’t be happening, the party’s just getting started.
A bad attitude will always make whatever your going through infinitely more difficult.
There’s a ton of advice out there about how to make our struggles easier, and if you know some tricks, please share below. But from where I sit in the cool Denver AM, relaxing with a huge cup of coffee, knowing full well that my daily ration of gatos is waiting to brighten my day – the best way to lighten our dark times is to not make them harder.
Refuse, with every fiber of your being, to make your hard times harder with a bad attitude.
This is nigh unto impossible for us Americans though. We don’t talk about our struggles, and we don’t do the deep friendships required to keep our crappy attitudes in check. So it’s no surprise that our culture is marked with angry behaviors.
It’s easy for us to become convinced that nobody else is struggling like we are, which adds to the idea that our struggles aren’t fair – then, boom, our bad attitude takes over, making everything a thousand times worse.
Kill It or Watch It Grow
The scariest reality about a bad attitude is that it doesn’t just go away on its own, and it doesn’t sit idle.
And it has one goal, to weigh you down, eat your soul, and completely wreck everything, which is ironic, because the struggles that kicked off your bad attitude will do the opposite if you deal with them rightly.
There’s no such thing as a struggle that will ruin your life, but a bad attitude, by definition, always will.
So kill it.
Get rid of it, drop it. If you can’t, or if you don’t know how, get some friends to help, or a therapist, or a pastor – someone – but don’t try to do it by yourself. Bad attitudes love hosting on rugged individualists – people who think they’ve got to figure everything out on their own.
If you’re struggling, it’s OK to be sad, to vent to a close friend, to mourn the loss of whatever it is that your struggle has stolen. But be careful, there’s no sitting on the fence here – our struggles are difficult doorways into a deeper, richer life, or a quick path to a crappy one.