You have heard it said. Heck, I’m sure you have said it yourself, from time to time. Typically we hear it or say it when someone is trying to brace for the inevitable truth of a challenging life happenstance. In life, many things are “easier said than done.”
We hear it and say it all the time. “You have to work to forgive him, and let go, although I know it’s easier said than done.” We say it to a friend or a family member, with compassion and empathy, and we mean it. And the person that hears it appreciates it, as it helps brace for the emotional or mental work required of that person.
It’s the Doing
It seems obvious to say that many things are truly easier said than done, but what goes hand and hand is that most of the time we don’t put in the effort of the doing. I’m often amused when I talk with people and attempt to give a pep talk about perspective on life challenges, letting go of the past, and working towards forgiveness and the response is “I’ll try.” What is the trying? You do.
You may have to practice the doing every day, and you may fail. Doing it, even if it’s not always done with ease or it doesn’t come naturally is still doing. And that should be the approach. How does one “try” to forgive? How does one “try” to accept?
You Just Throw It
If I’m showing someone how to throw a ball and they “try” to throw it, they are actually doing the act of throwing. They may practice how well they throw it, and the ease in which they throw it, but they don’t try to throw it, they just do it. They throw it and they work on and practice the specifics around throwing; they practice and evolve their management of the throwing motion and mechanics.
It may sound naïve or harsh to express hesitation with the word trying. I know it’s within our nature to let ourselves and each other off the hook. And it’s equally important to admit our shortcomings as humans. The simple reality is that we often fail more than we succeed. Whether we measure the failures each day, or each week, or a lifetime; with so many sets of eyes watching and judging, and so many obstacles out in the world, failures mount. And that’s OK. It’s really not about how many times we fail, but rather how we respond to it and the action we take after. Some of the best baseball hitters in the game are considered good hitters when they hit .300; that means they fail 7 out of 10 times.
Whenever we take action there is a good chance we may not succeed; whether in baking the perfect cake, or auditioning for a play, trying to prove a point to a spouse, trying to look cool for your children, driving within the speed limits on the way home from work…on and on the examples go. When we let go of trying and look towards doing, we open ourselves up to more failure, which often is a daunting possibility. It tends to feel more comfortable throwing out the obligatory “I’ll try” regardless of true intention, sort of cushioning the failure side of things; “well, I tried.”
It seems to me that the “trying” phrase is utilized more with issues of internal struggle, rather than elements outside of us in the world. We try to forgive. We try to let go. We try to accept. We try to open our minds. All of that, to me, equates to speaking of non-action in a way that feels more comfortable and acceptable. If you don’t intend to forgive; own it. If you don’t intend to let go of whatever you are holding onto, then hold it, strangle it. Go for it, completely. But do so knowing you own the keys to unlock your own prison bars.
Not everyone is Billy Joel
I rarely hear people say “I want to try to learn the piano,” followed by never taking any action involving a piano. Someone who truly wants to learn to play the piano will find a piano and find a teacher and they will learn. Whether they turn into Billy Joel or not is another story…
It’s harsh thinking; I realize that. And it may seem more black and white in approach than my usual gray vision of the world. That’s OK. I own the viewpoint and I know the viewpoint won’t always succeed. That is how it goes when you take action.
Why so forgiving?
One of the things people closest to me always say to me is that I’m very forgiving. Sometimes they dub me “too forgiving.” I have had several friends and close family members ask me how do I forgive? I know my response has rarely provided clarity to anyone, but I always say “I just do.” The truth is I don’t know the random six steps I take towards forgiveness. It’s a process. It’s a moving target. It is sometimes an everyday emotional checkpoint. And it varies. And sometimes I fail. The key with something like forgiveness is that you do it for yourself, more than for someone else. And when you forgive you don’t absolve yourself or the other person. If someone hurts me and I forgive them, I’m not broadcasting approval of their poor behavior. I’m valuing my ability to let go and move on, and I’m allowing for the acceptance of imperfection and failure in someone else. It costs too much to hold onto anger or fear and so I choose to forgive. And I don’t try to forgive; I just do it…even if I do it slowly and internally. I’m doing it even if I can’t tangibly touch it, and if my process isn’t complete.
I liken the “just do it” mentality to getting up and getting dressed every morning. Inevitably, my alarm goes off quite early each weekday. I’m less than thrilled when it does, and I force my body out of the bed. The action is something I do, each morning, day after day and week after week. Some days it is a bit easier than other days. Some weeks I feel like I’m on a roll and loving life. Other weeks I’m looking for an escape hatch from my own life. The same is true with complex and broad challenging topics like letting go of fear, or forgiving someone who hurt you. You don’t necessarily do it once and life is easy. You do it over and over again.
And in The End…
In the end, that really is all that life is; a series of actions that we do over and over. A relationship is such; a series of actions we do. Being a lawyer, being a teacher, being a chef, being a landscaper; those jobs includes actions taken over and over again. It may be semantics in the choice of words being used, and perhaps it is more important to evaluate actions and progress. But, I think where I get stuck on this “trying” word is in the relationships I’ve seen between people, and the many ways I see people stuck in the circumstances of their lives. I often hear the word “trying” coming with an exasperated sigh and a look of hopelessness. Perhaps that’s the real reason it rings as being non-committal to me. Regardless, I have made the choice to talk of and think of “trying” less, and focus on doing more. I have made the choice to remove “Easier Said than Done” from my vocabulary, because really it just seems like an irrelevant and use-less slap in the face. Of course life is easier said than done; the doing is the hard part, and that’s why it’s the important part.
As a child, and as previously mentioned in a previous blog, my favorite ad campaign was Nike’s Just Do It. I guess some things never change!