I don’t like getting up early in the morning and I hate going without a shower. So when I was on a backpacking trip through the Colorado Rockies and our guide woke us up at four in the morning advising us to get an early start, I wasn’t happy. To make matters worse, we had to wear 60-pound packs and hike up the mountain with headlamps in pitch darkness. The guide’s advice was challenging, but also the right call. We needed to be up that early to get to the top and back by noon; otherwise, we risked getting caught in a storm. And the view from the apex was spectacular.
Sometimes, we get life advice that’s challenging—so challenging we’re tempted to go a different direction. But when we avoid good life advice simply because it’s hard, we typically end up in a place we don’t want to be. But some difficult advice is worth following. Here are the 5 most challenging pieces of advice I have ever received and why they are so right.
Note: Most of these come from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5–7), which I consider to be the most challenging speech ever given. And for me, these are actually more commands than advice.
1. Confront conflict early and head-on.Avoiding conflict is like ignoring a check engine light, hoping the problem will fix itself.
Confronting conflict takes courage and willpower. Everything in me wants to avoid conflict. But avoiding conflict is like ignoring a check engine light, hoping the problem will fix itself. The problem is it never does go away. At best, it sits below the surface, waiting to show its ugly face again. At worst, it’s like bacteria in the petri dish of our hearts, creating bitterness and dissension. Confronting conflict is a skill that takes experience to learn. While there are times when it’ll be messy, moving quickly to reconcile will create better relationships and improve confidence.
2. Be grateful for difficult seasons.
I hate going through difficult seasons. I crave comfort—and I’m sure I’m not alone here. Whenever I’m in the middle of a tough season, I pray for its quick end. In fact, I pray more, think more, wrestle with God more, and empathize more with people who’ve experienced the same thing. I grow and mature during difficult seasons far more than I do when I’m comfortable. It’s easy to look back and be grateful for the gifts tough times gave me. I need to work on being grateful in the moment.
3. Love and pray for your enemies.
This doesn’t mean we need to invite our enemies or unhealthy and toxic people into our lives. But it does mean to pray for and do right by them. It’s an excruciating exercise, but in the end, it detangles us emotionally from our enemies—it ensures that we don’t hold grudges or hold others in contempt. Even more so, do we just want to do what everyone else does? Everyone loves the people who love them back. But Jesus is calling people to a higher place.
4. Go the extra mile.
In the same breath that Jesus challenges us to love our enemies, he says to go an extra mile. He is speaking of not retaliating, which is challenging in itself. However, he challenges us to go above and beyond what is required of us. So I need to go above and beyond in what I give to others. It needs to be reflected in the time I give my family and the effort I give at work. I need to go the extra mile in the patience I give, the mercy I offer, and the love I pour out.
5. Always forgive.
This doesn’t mean justifying what was done or saying it’s OK. It’s deciding not to hold somebody’s wrong or crime against them anymore. It’s hard to do because holding onto it makes me feel righteous and somehow like there’s justice being done. However, all it does is keep me emotionally connected with that person. I’ve had to learn to let go and let God handle the justice part. It’s challenging, but also freeing.
Sound off: What’s the most challenging life advice you have ever received?
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What is the most difficult advice you have ever received?”