How Bowling And Cliff Diving Can Fight Complacency
I was doing some research for a talk I gave recently – OK, research is a strong word – I was looking up stuff on Google. I searched for lists of common things that make people uncomfortable. As you can imagine, a lot of the same stuff showed up on different lists: heights, snakes, confrontation, public speaking, etc. There was one however, that really stood out for me. It only showed up on one list, but it was by far my favorite. I chuckled out loud because I had never considered it, and it was sort of true for me.
The situation described was the moment you spin around and face everyone after you’ve completed your turn in bowling. Seriously. Think about it. Everyone is staring at you. You have to make that awkward walk back. You’re not sure whether to high-five or fist-bump. Someone always takes your seat. You’re still not sure why you have to wear the special shoes.
This may seem ridiculous, but it made me realize if something like the bowling situation can make enough people uncomfortable that it showed up on a list – any list – then uncomfortable is everywhere. I write and speak a lot about comfort having the potential to negatively affect our lives – personally, professionally and spiritually. We become so comfortable that it holds us back from reaching, growing, and doing more with what we’ve been given.
While looking for some study material for my Sunday school class, I came upon a book called Crazy Love by Frances Chan. I opened the book somewhere in the middle and the page I landed on had underlined text from someone who had previously used the book. Talking about a gentleman who felt called to leave his current, high-paying job to become a pastor, Chan wrote, “When people make changes in their lives like this, it carries greater impact than when they merely make impassioned declarations. The world needs Christians who don’t tolerate the complacency of their own lives.”
Read that last sentence again. Man, that is powerful. Not only do I agree with that statement, I would add that not tolerating complacency applies to all parts of our lives. When I write and speak about being too comfortable, I think it really has as much to do with being complacent. Comfort in itself is not a bad thing. We all like to have the pleasant feeling of ease and contentment that comfort can bring. It’s when it becomes contentment to a fault that it moves into complacency – and that can be a stagnant, monotonous, soul-sucking place to be.
I left a 26-year career after a tipping point combined with a nagging feeling I was supposed to do something else. It took me over a year to finally pull the trigger. Every time I felt I could do it, I had this loud thought that said, “Are you nuts! Who the hell quits their job after 26 years … you’re over 50 years old!” Periodically I would walk over to the edge of that cliff and look over. It was soooo scary and soooo far down. I walked away and told myself I couldn’t do it. I went back to that edge every couple of months and always ended up turning around. The last time I went the feeling was different. I looked over and this time that loud thought said, “I can do it. I can do it. Not only I can do it … but I have to do it.” Just like Clark Griswold in the movie Vacation - before he jumps in the pool with Christie Brinkley – I swung my arms back and forth and whispered, “This is crazy, this is crazy” … swan dive.
As I continue my journey after jumping off the cliff, I have so many questions and few answers. Just recently, can it be possible it was a complete coincidence I picked that book off the shelf with hundreds of others? That I would open it to that exact page with the underlined text? Was I supposed to read it for myself? Was I supposed to use it in this blog post for others to read? I don’t know. I do know I continue to be scared. Most of the time I still feel like I’m falling. Talk about being uncomfortable. I definitely don’t have it all figured out, but I somehow know I did the right thing.
Please don’t let your takeaway be that you should quit your current job. That is not the central message, ok? I don’t want the hate mail from your loved ones. But I do challenge you to examine the comfort level in your life and if it’s holding you back. What are the things you’ve been yearning to do, but for some reason just won’t? What are you doing with this one earthly life you’ve been given? How can you do it better? What do you really want to do? Are you impacting others in a positive way?
Don’t let comfort – or anything else – keep you from getting where you want to go.
We will not tolerate the complacency of our own lives.
We will look over that cliff and be unafraid.
Clark Griswold’s got nothing on us.