rebelling against low expectations

Do Hard Things, Say No


Two weeks ago, I did something stupid. And God, in His goodness, used my stupidity to remind me of a lesson He’s been patiently teaching me over the last few months. It was Homecoming Week here at PHC — where family and alumni descend on campus — and part of the festivities was a big class competition.

As freshman, our class was dedicated to demonstrating our solidarity (and of course, superiority) in activities like competitive fund-raising, a 5K race, a banner-making contest, a challenge course, and something simply called “the epic relay race.”

A Reminder of My Weakness

First, some background. Over the last year or so, I have been dealing with some ongoing (though Lord-willing, temporary) health issues. It hasn’t been fun, or easy, but it’s been good. God has used it as a constant reminder of my weakness and dependence on Him. It’s been a true 2 Corinthians 12:9 experience.

Part of this lesson has been adjusting to doctor’s orders, given just before we left for school, that I avoid any physical activity that requires me to “exert myself.” This meant that I couldn’t try out for the PHC soccer team — a change of plans. It was a big disappointment, but Brett, being a loyal brother, chose not to try out either.

Since then I’ve found myself unable to do a lot of things I want to do. I can’t play soccer or basketball — my two loves, as far as sports go. I can’t work out. And I haven’t been able to participate in things like the annual dodgeball tournament or the D4 versus D5 football game — where our guys’ dorm (D4) systematically dismantles the other guys’ dorm on campus. It’s not fun being the puny twin.

But still, up until recently, I credited myself with having a pretty good attitude about the whole thing. I took quite a bit of pride in my humble resignation to God’s will — waiting patiently to recover before blowing everyone away with my (sub-par) athletic ability. They wouldn’t know what hit them! Or so I thought.

That Fateful October Day

Then Homecoming Week arrived. The freshmen were caught in a fierce battle with the seniors for first place. And rumor spread that the next event — “the epic relay race” — was a series of 100 yard dashes, one by each member of the relay team. “I could do that,” I thought. “I’m pretty fast. And my class needs me.”

We pulled together our four-member team, even managing to get out of class a few minutes early. To warm up, we ran a pre-run dash to determine who would run as anchor. I won. I was feeling pretty good. Then they began to explain the rules.

It turned out that instead of a series of individual dashes, we would each run 50 yards, spin around 10 times, run 50 yards again, then run 100 yards, spin around 10 times, and run 100 yards again. 300 yards and 20 spins, at breakneck speed. At that point, I really should have excused myself. But I didn’t. We lined up. The race began.

At first, everything went according to plan. Our team had the lead. I was running fast, and feeling good. But after the first spin, head down, I was feeling a bit dizzy. After the third sprint, I was feeling winded. But the race was tightening up. It all came down to the final spin and run — and I was the anchor.

It was us and the seniors. We spun round ten times and were off, running as fast as we could. There were 500 points at stake, not to mention class pride. But something strange started to happen as we hit the homestretch, neck and neck. My legs weren’t moving right, and I was feeling a bit woozy. I dove at the finish line.

“The seniors win!” they yelled. But I was too preoccupied lying on the ground to protest. I was helped up, only to slump down again immediately. My stomach decided it was a lifeboat in a tropical storm. After 20 minutes, I was still on the ground.

By this time, people began to be concerned. I didn’t think I could get up. I just felt like throwing up. People tried to get me to drink something, but it didn’t help. Then they called the ambulance, which arrived quickly (which is good), sirens wailing.

In the end, I chose to be taken to my dorm room, rather than the hospital. But I was confined to my bed for 24 hours, missing school, homecoming, and time with family — our mother, sister, and youngest brother. It was not what I had planned.*

* If you are concerned about my well-being, I am fully recovered. The diagnosis was that I gave myself a large dose of lactic acid and seasickness. In fact, we later found out that eight of the sixteen participants threw up after the race. Because I was the most out of shape, I just took the longest to recover.

The Moral of the Story

Why do I share this (embarrassing) story with you? I share it to make a simple but important point: Sometimes “do hard things” means saying no. Sure, running the race was hard — my condition afterward testified to that. But it was also foolish.

Brett and I have joked that the second half of “do hard things” should be “don’t do stupid things” — but it’s more than a joke, it’s true. As rebelutionaries our goal is not to do just anything that’s hard. Our goal is to never let fear or difficulty keep us from doing what is good and right — especially those things God has called us to do.

In order to do the hard things God has called us to do, we often have to say no to lesser things, even if they qualify as “rebelutionary.” Being at school, that has meant learning to say no to activities, time with friends, and other good things in order to be faithful in our walk with God and to our studies.

For me right now, that means reigning myself in when I’m tempted to take on more projects, stay up late working, or push myself to do more and be more than God has called me to in this season of my life.

When she heard I was writing a post on this topic, my mother sent me this quote by Theodore Roosevelt: “No man is worth his salt who is not ready at all times to risk his well-being, to risk his body, to risk his life, in a great cause.”

With the quote, she attached the following commentary: “Here is the quote, dear. The point is that the relay race was NOT a great cause.” I laughed, but she’s right. As rebelutionaries, we do have a great cause: the glory of Christ and His gospel. If we are to risk our well-being, our bodies, our lives, let it be for that cause.

Some questions for discussion:

  • Have you ever done something “hard” and stupid? What happened?
  • Have you ever said no to a good opportunity because you were focused on a greater cause? What helped you to make that decision?
  • How do we distinguish between “good things” and “most important” things? What resources has God given us to help us discern?

Photos courtesy of Emily Hall and Christine Soares.

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About the author

Alex and Brett Harris

are the co-founders of and co-authors of Do Hard Things and Start Here. They have a passion for God and for their generation. Their personal interests include politics, filmmaking, music, and basketball. They are both graduates of Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, Virginia.


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  • Thank you for posting this and being open with us – it is a good topic.
    I think, for the last question, we can destinguish between “good things” and the “most important” things by asking God and ourselves, “What do you want the most?” The two answers should, of course, be the same. It reminds me of a part of a movie that I saw – in it, a musician is auditioning at a recording studio, and sings a song that many before him have sung. The person listening asked him what song he would want to sing if it were the only thing he could ever express. We have one shot, and we can’t afford to aim for less than the highest goal.

  • Thank you so much for sharing this, Alex!
    It’s a good reminder on what hard things we should be doing. And not just for a good cause, but let’s not settle for something less and go for a GREAT cause in our pursuit of excellence.

    Thanks so much for this post

    God bless

  • Oh my. God is using this to speak to me tonight… I do have a hard time saying no. (and a knack for stupidity) Thanks for being such an encouragement by sharing your story.

  • Thank you so much for your encouraging words. God is constantly teaching us new things about ourselves! It is great to know that there are other young people out there who are LEARNING from their mistakes….

  • Thanks for sharing this story! Very inspirational for me 🙂

    Since I can find it extremely hard to just say “no”, i have got into some trouble. Even after saying yes to someone when I really wanted to say NO to them (I wont bore you with the details of my experience) I never came out to do the right thing which made things worse….I sound very vague but I just wanted to say thanks again for such a great story!

  • Oh yeah, I’ve done some pretty stupid things… But the point is to learn from those mistakes! You’ll probably never do that agian, hopefully, 🙂

  • Hey, Alex!
    I don’t ever recall doing something like this, but I can tell you I’ve done some stupid things, too. Such as letting my friend’s brother push my wheelchair during a relay. He went way too fast, and I fell out. It hurt for a while, but I fully recovered. Now, he almost always refuses to push me.

    I guess that this was meant as an example that there is a difference between stupid and hard. But I also took it to say that not all hard things will feel like we should have done them in the first place. They might not always seem worth it, but we still do it!

    Wow. Half the participants were sick… Yikes! Wouldn’t that go along with how some college students have reputations for doing stupid things? Just kidding. I’m glad you all are feeling back to normal now.

    Abigail 🙂

  • Hey there Alex,

    It’s good to know you are feeling better. That relay ace does sound pretty epic! 🙂 But you’re right, things like that aren’t so important when you put them next to God and his glory. I have a tendency to want to do that myself. I am right in the middle of five kids and my older sisters are really athletic so I’m expected to do stuff like that so it helps to have someone who shares my struggles. Thanks for sharing!

    In Christ Alone,
    Rebecca Whitpan

  • Thanks for being so honest despite the embarrassing nature of your story! It is refreshing to hear of people who learn from their mistakes and strive to “do [the] hard things” that God is truly calling them to do, rather than what they want to do. I need this reminder constantly. Thanks!

  • Thank you for your post, Alex. I really needed to hear that!

    I have a really hard time saying “no” to people or challenges; it’s a constant struggle. When people ask me to do something, my immediate thought is, “Yes, of course!” But the Lord has been teaching me lately that compulsion is a bad thing…a very bad thing! 😉

    “Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him.“ 2 Corinthians 5:9

    That is one of my favorite verses. It helps me put everything into perspective. Wanting to do everything for everyone may seem like a selfless ambition, but if it is not the Lord’s will, it is not right. We cannot throw ourselves into every opportunity without consulting the Lord first. Our ambition is to be pleasing to Him (not to kill ourselves trying to be involved in every hard thing that comes along!).

    Often times I’ve found that my reason for saying yes to every request comes from a people-pleasing mindset. Galatians 1:10 sums it up so well: “For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.”

    We cannot be focused on pleasing both the Lord and people; it is one or the other.
    “For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself; for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.” Romans 14:7-9

    “Have you ever done something “hard” and stupid? What happened?”
    I have numerous examples of “hard”, stupid things I’ve done. But the moral of all the stories is that they all ended very badly and definitely weren’t worth it! 😉

    “Have you ever said no to a good opportunity because you were focused on a greater cause? What helped you to make that decision?”
    To answer your second question, yes, I have said no to many good opportunities because I was focused on a greater cause.

    Here’s one example that comes to mind: A good friend of mine leads a girls’ Bible study and for a number of years my sister and I helped her (leading worship time and small group discussions). Earlier this year, though, we felt the Lord calling us to start our own discipleship group with some home schooled girls in our area. We prayed about it for a while and felt the Lord say “go.”

    We started the Bible study group and it was going very well. But my sister and I were getting so overwhelmed with everything we had to do. We knew it would be a disappointment to our friend if we stopped helping her with her Bible study, but we felt the Lord leading us to focus more on our own group and the other ministries we were involved with. That’s not at all to say that our Bible study was a “greater cause” than our friend’s; it’s just that it was the right cause for us—it was of the Lord’s will, which is the greatest cause.

    There are a million hard things waiting to be tackled, but we have to use discernment in deciding which of those hard things the Lord wants us to pursue.

    “Make your ear attentive to wisdom, incline your heart to understanding; for if you cry for discernment, lift your voice for understanding; if you seek her as silver and search for her as for hidden treasures; then you will discern the fear of the Lord and discover the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.” Proverbs 2:2-6

    This verse is such a comforting promise. If we seek to follow the Lord’s will and if our heart’s desire is to glorify Him, He will lead us. Then we won’t be so inclined to do stupid things! 😉

  • Thanks for being humble, Alex.
    My downfall is not normally doing the “stupid” thing (because my parents are wise enough to keep me from doing it), but whining and moaning that I didn’t get to do it. In which case, the hard thing is to trust God that He knows what He’s doing in setting up my schedule so that I cannot do event A because I have a commitment to event B. 😀

  • I loved this post guys!
    I’m having to face a lot of hard decisions lately and this helped me realize that do hard things is also don’t do stupid things. I’m praying that you continue to feel better Alex!

  • Thanks for the reminder, Alex. My stupid thing is something we all struggle with: fear of men. It gets me into a lot of trouble at times. Thankfully, I have a Great God, a loving family, and wonderful friends who help me when it gets tough.

  • I have definitly done some stupid things. It’s hard to say no sometimes. Alot of times a core of pride is what drives me to do something stupid.

    “You can hold your breath until your face is blue. Well…I can make my face purple!” The result? A really bad headache.

    There are consequences, good and bad for everything we do. And doing stupid things can really get us into trouble. It’s so wonderful having family and friends that encourage me to Do Hard Things and help me to say no.

    Thanks for sharing that with us Alex! It’s a great reminder to Do Hard Things and it shows humility.

  • Thanks for that reminder. That is one of the things I struggle with…saying ‘no’. Thanks for sharing your story!!! I’m glad you are fully recovered!!! 🙂

  • My mom is always telling me to say no to good things so I have time for the great things. I’ve really been trying to do that this year and have been amazed at what has opened up to me. God is opening up so many opportunities to serve Him and with my extra time, I’ve been able to say yes right away!

  • Thank you for so honestly sharing this story. I myself have had some ongoing health issues this year that have been a real challenge, but I’ve also seen God’s hand in it in many ways. It’s definitely not easy to deny yourself something that everyone else around you is enjoying.

    I feel that this is also a story of obedience. By ignoring the doctor’s orders, you suffered some consequences you surely could have done without. When I’m disobedient to God, He has to chasten me. But I’ve also come to see that this is all the proof I need that God loves me. Whom He loves, He will chasten. He prunes me that I may bear more fruit.

    Keeping you in my prayers,

  • I’ve been feeling what you’re probably feeling, in a lesser way, for a longer time.
    When I was 14 everything, except my muscles, grew really fast. As a result, here I am at 17 standing at 6’3”, skinny as a broom stick and unable to run more than 75 yards without getting completely winded and slowing to a plod. I’m beginning to fill out now but it’s required a little patients to wait this out. Fortunately God saw fit to make me comfortable with a good book, as opposed to roughhousing with siblings and friends. God’s so good to think of everything!!

    The event you discussed, I can’t picture myself doing. I’d get sick after the first 10 times around! Don’t feel bad about this condition; if I had got as far as you did it would amaze me! (Not to say that it wasn’t stupid)

    I’ve never (that I can remember) had trouble saying no. Having selfish and stubborn tendencies it comes easily; that isn’t to say that I haven’t done stupid things I‘ve been easily pressured into doing some pretty stupid things. It’s just that no is the first answer that comes to mind. I’m still working on the DO of Do Hard Things.

  • Thanks for being honest Alex! The story was rather amusing to read 🙂 Oh, and the pictures absolutely made it!

    Although I don’t tend to do stupid things very often, I definitely do my share, and when I do it almost always has to do with competing. . . Probably the only reason I don’t do stupid things more often is because my parents and siblings just love to bring me back down to earth before I actually do it. We’ll see how I do by myself next year when I go off to college 🙂

    My mom likes to quote TR too. He was a pretty great guy!

  • Like Margaret said, thanks for sharing and being honest. The Lord used it to speak to me.

    I can’t think of an answer to any of your questions. Knowing me, I will as soon as I post this comment. Oh well.

    I’ll pray for you.

  • I said “yes” to an activity because it was out of my confort zone and not one of my abilities. After I did, God spoke to me saying, “Will you honor me by doing this?” Even though it wasn’t honoring God directly, I did have a fun time.

    Thank you for sharing. It’s nice to know someone else knows how you feel.

  • So true. Thank you so much for sharing this, Alex. Your honesty and humility in this post and many others is a great blessing and encouragement! keep pressing on for His glory!!

  • Thanks for posting this, Alex. It’s good that you made the distinction between something hard and something stupid. Keep up the good work!

    P.S. I’m not very athletic either.

  • *Laughs*

    I am taking this post seriously, but I can definitely smile about the situation you were in.

    Just the other day I was in a similar situation. My sister and I are training for a marathon, and swimming on a team, thus we both need plenty of sleep. So the other day we got an invitation to a church lock in (a sleepover, without the “sleep” part) We both knew that we had an eight-mile run in our training schedule early the next morning, and that we would need our sleep, but a lock-in sounded like SO much fun. Our parents advised us against going, but we asked “pretty please, with a cherry on top” and we managed to get our way. We told ourselves that we would go to bed earlier than the other girls, and avoid all the sugary foods and caffeinated drinks. Of coarse we both failed helplessly. Even though we went to be early, we still did not manage to sleep. All the other girls were still awake (and making enough noise to wake our entire town) To make a long story short, we were both exhausted the next morning, and were very sleepy during our run. Note to runners: NEVER run while sleepy. Being sleepy also made us sloppy and unaware of our environment. After five miles, my sister’s ankle gave out and she had to limp back to the starting point. I got a hip injury, and had to see a doctor because of it.
    I still want to hit myself for saying “yes” when I knew I should have said “NO WAY” But God is good and merciful and I have definitely learned from my mistake. Thank-fully my hip problem is minor, and I will be able to pick up my training again in a few weeks.
    I think you can distinguish between the “good things”, and the “most important things”, by thinking AHEAD. Sure there is nothing wrong with a sleepover, and it is good to socialize with friends, but if I had thought further ahead, I would have realized that it was the most important thing for me to get proper rest. As a Christian I sometimes feel like I have to participate in every good cause that comes my way, but sometimes I often miss opportunities because I said yes to the wrong things. God also gives us wisdom to make our decisions according to his will for our lives.
    Alex: I’m glad you’re alright, sorry that you had to miss homecoming:(

  • Alex, I’m glad you’re okay! I know it wasn’t easy to put this out for everyone to read, but all of us can relate. God is good to protect us in spite of our stupidity at times. I’ve done a few stupid things in my life…most of them were “easy” stupid not hard though. I had my first car accident this spring because I made a turn without a clear view of oncoming traffic (I was horrified at wrecking the other person’s car), and this last time I backed up in too much of a hurry and ripped off the side view mirror with a shopping cart in the parking lot. 😛

    A “hard” example is probably all the times I stay up late to work on a project instead of going to bed (it’s hard to stay up when you’re tired!) and not only am I less efficient, I end up being no good the next day to boot. There was also the time I took on a scrapbook project and wanted to make it so perfect that I ended up investing a lot of time into something that ultimately wasn’t that important.

    As far as distinguishing between good and important…prayer first, and then parents are great for advice and objectivity with these things. Also other adults, siblings, and certain friends. And being humble enough to listen! That’s a biggie. I am a sucker for saying yes to opportunities because I can and want to, without really weighing the value. I believe that often we have a “gut feeling” (conscience) about the right choice, like when you found out what the relay entailed, you likely had a “this probably isn’t the best idea” thought that you pushed away. That happens a lot to me and when I don’t listen…ahem… 😉

    Live and learn, bro!

  • Thanks for the reminder Alex,
    I know that it can be really hard to say no! Last year I was really sick and I just wanted to ignore it at times and go on as if everything was normal…I didn’t want to say No. But often I would feel even sicker because of it, like my mom had wisely and lovingly warned me would happen! Well it’s been hard but I’m starting to learn to say no and listen to the wise advisers God has put in my life. GET WELL SOON. I’m Praying for you.
    Constantly learning to Like Him.

  • That’s the kind of posts that helps us all remind each other than we are definitely real people and do mess up.
    Doing hard, stupid things? Well I twisted my ankle over Independence Day weekend this year, and it was pretty bad so I had to wear an ankle wrap for a while. Well it wasn’t completely better so we went to the doctor and he put me in a brace for another two months (that was until the beginning of October) But before I got the brace I wasn’t as careful as I should have been and I sort of half twisted my ankle a couple times during then. it was hard to have to wear that stuff, but it was even harder when I hurt myself again. Thanks for sharing!
    In Christ,

  • Alex, it’s good to know that you’ve fully recovered. I pray that God will continue to heal you. Until then, keep safe and follow doctor’s orders. 🙂

    Thanks for that great insight that sometimes, doing hard things means saying no, especially if the cause isn’t that great. That’s the latest lesson God has been teaching me, too. I’m sometimes tempted to exert all my effort for things that aren’t so important. Or, I exert myself too much, and forget to take a rest, thinking that I can do a little bit more…just a little bit more…and then I end up very sick (like now :P). I guess part of doing hard things is – just as you said – saying no to some not-very-noble causes so we can reserve our energy and strength for the worthy and noble ones.

    Continuing in prayer for you.

    In Christ,
    Alyssa C.

    P.S. The second picture from the top – is that the “spinning around”? What are the guys holding? …something like a scroll…? 😛

  • * Have you ever done something “hard” and stupid? What happened?

    Well I have an ego problem, so I do a lot of hard dumb things. Nothing spectacular just serving in too many places at once, giving too much, or biking to college 4 days a week instead of taking a ride on the 4th day. Now serving God and giving to God are very good(being rather the center of the Christian walk). But I often find that I’m not really doing the hard things for the right reason and because I’m doing them to bolster my pride I burn out really fast. In those times, I’m doing something hard(it is still hard to serve or give) but I’m doing something dumb (sinful) as well (serving myself not God). Biking is about the same thing at first my goal was to serve my brother by not requiring him to get up at about 6 on Saturday. But it changed quickly to my serving myself by displaying that I do have good health. Which I do, but the sinner is not satisfied with good health, she wants great health.
    In most of these hard dumbs God is kind enough to show me that I am sinning by serving myself. Isn’t it amazing how merciful He is to sinners? After that the hard things become easy things, because I’m serving or giving for the right reason.

    * How do we distinguish between “good things” and “most important” things? What resources has God given us to help us discern?

    I think the only way to distinguish between good things and most important things (God things) is to go to God for the answers. Thankfully our God is not silent, He speaks through His Word, through the authorities He has established on the earth (parents, pastors, etc), through the other saints, and very importantly through personal sitting at His feet in prayer. God is very gracious, He knows our weaknesses so He provided His wisdom in many places so we could know Him better, trust Him more, and love Him the most.
    I pray you continue to be well, Grace

  • Hello Alex! =)
    Thanks for sharing what happened to you and being completely honest. =) At least most people who commented on your Facebook status now know the story. =)

    Rest well!

    Done something hard and stupid? Well I can’t recall anything specific now but in relation to the topic, I think sometimes we are all inclined to show-off–tempted by the glamour and fame we’ll gain among our circle of friends. I must admit that I have been pretty much a show-off at times. Even if people thought I did great and didn’t know that I showed off, inside I really feel rotten–and I know God is looking at me, pretty turned-off with my little stunt for fame.

    Yes, I had turned down several opportunities for the sake of the causes that are more important to me. Turning them down wasn’t easy. The most recent was a public speaking competition in our college. I signed up for it thinking that God wants me to do the hard thing of public speaking. The competition date was sandwiched between two examination days and I said to myself, “Sure I could do this.Do hard things!” I made plans for myself such as, “I can study up to 2am then sleep a bit then make research for my competition speech. God will be with me anyway.” Little did I realize then that I was already depending on my own strength and shoving God aside.

    One morning I just woke up and felt a heavy tug on my heart. I felt burned out. I suddenly wanted to drop everything I was doing. God quietly spoke to my heart and told me that I should drop the public speaking competition. I gladly did. It wasn’t easy to drop it all by myself but with God clearly directing me to do so I did it with gusto.

    I think we can better discern the important things when our hearts are in tune with God. I always go back to Jeremiah 29:11. It reminds us that God has plans to prosper us and not to harm us. If I had gone on with the competition perhaps I would’ve harmed myself so much. I would not have had the time to study for the examinations (and failed them most likely) and my health would have had suffered for late-night to early-morning researches.

    God showed me through His word and my quiet time with Him that my examinations were more important causes than the public speaking competition. Both were good causes but it was clear God wanted me to focus on just one—after all that’s what He knows is good for me. And He is always right about that.

  • Alex,

    Thank you for the honesty in your post. I appreciated hearing your story. It struck a chord. My prayers are with you.
    The message you had to share is a thought provoking one. Thank you very much for sharing it.

    May God bless you. A sister in Christ…

  • That sounds exactly like something I would have done. Because of a head injury a few months ago and some recent health issues, I am not allowed to play any sports or anything rough (which, for me, means not living half my life). My mom constantly stops me from going at it anyway. Its hard for me to remember that a stupid decision helped put me in the position I am in right now, and that another stupid position could make me (premanently) worse than I am now.

    Also, I often have to give up a good opportunities to do things in order to help my family out. God has taught me over the past year that the best place to serve is the home.

  • Wow! I loved this post. It was nice to hear a story like that because sometimes I forget that you and your brother are just people. Honestly, I do alot of stupid things and get embarrassed really easily. I cannot imagine how I would have felt if I had nearly fainted in front all of my classmates. I’m glad your doing better and I will be praying for your health. Most of all, I’m glad you chose to tell a story about yourself to teach a lesson. I love reading all of your posts, but I like hearing stories about you guys personally because you guys are people I admire and look up to. I’ts was nice of you to share! thank you!

  • Alex,

    Thanks for the wonderful post! I loved it! But then, I love everything on the Rebelution! 🙂 I must say you got me very concerned about your well being though. Glad your feeling better. Just know my family and I will be constantly praying for your complete recovery.

    Hey, could all the Rebelutionaries please pray for me? I am going to do a hard thing. I am going to try and tell the kids at my church all about “Do Hard Things” and the Rebelution. I know that doesn’t seem like a “hard thing” but in my case it is. The teens I know all think I am really weird. Just because I dress modestly and have conservative values. So when I tell them hopefully they won’t think “Oh boy, if Sarah likes it then it’s got to be weird!” So please pray that they will be open to what I say.

    “Have I ever done anything hard and stupid? What happened?” I don’t think so. Not yet anyway :). But yes, I have done plenty of stupid things! And gotten hurt from it! Take for instance the time as a little girl I was jumping on the sofa only to fall head first on the coffee table. I fractured my skull (cracked it). No joking. Believe me, it hurt! I could share more stories but I have to get of the computer. My mom is saying “O.K. Sarah. Enough Rebelution for one day.” Bye!

    God bless!

    Sarah. 🙂

  • haha, i just heard this story from your brother brett at the purpose-driven death missions conference. you guys always blow me away–mostly through your honesty. thank you for sharing; it means so much.

  • Ah, yes. Unfortunately, in the Body of Christ, we often feel the word “no” is a dirty word. Especially when we know it will be followed by someone else’s disapproval that we haven’t placed their project as our highest priority.

    I’m glad you are feeling better, young brother. I’m also glad you are sensing God’s permission to say “no” to things that are not your calling. A wonderful lesson and great freedom is found there.

    Grace and peace to you and Brett. Hope to see you both soon.

  • At least you are fine now. May God grant you healing in you temporary infirmity.
    As for having done something stupid, I have done many thing all ready in my short life. I once unloaded close to 500 12inch cinderblocks from a truck and stacked them all because i ticked off that I couldn’t get any to get off their duff help. The result being layed up for the next 2 days unable to move without pain in my back. That is one hard thing I shall never do again.

  • Brett and Alex,
    Hey, you guys do conferences for teens and stuff like that, right? Well, did you ever considering coming (or in your case, going) to another country? Because I live in Beijing, China and i am an MK. We have a huge communtiy of teens here in China, which not many people really expect. We have a relativly large youthgroup here in Beijing, and twice a year we have a camp and teens from all over Chine, Mongolia, Louse, and other places that come. It would be really cool if you guys could come to one of your confrences here. No pressure or anything, if it’s not possible, that is totaly cool. I’m just reading your book and i think it would be awesome for you guys to come to Chine. Thanks for reading this!!

    (Sorry, this wasn’t really relevant to you story/blog entry.)

  • I’m sorry–I had to laugh when I read that! I have a couple teenage brothers who are always doing something weird. Just last month they went to a friend’s birthday party, and the friend’s family has the second-biggest zip-line in Maryland at 500 feet long and 40 feet at the tallest point. Just before the end, you have to let go and drop a dozen feet to the ground, otherwise you’ll crash into a tree at 30mph. Oh yes, my brothers had several rides each!

    I like the post, though–I often find it difficult to discern “do hard things” from “do stupid things.”

    (sorry–this might be long 🙂 )

    “Have you ever done something “hard” and stupid? What happened?”
    My mom says I do! I have had several close calls from riding less-than-perfect (i.e., nutty) horses. For example, I was riding a young Paint mare a few months ago and didn’t tighten the girth all the way, thinking we (my friend and I) would just walk around a bit. Well, we came to a big hill on the trail and I couldn’t resist. We ran up it. Halfway up the slope, my saddle slipped all the way to the side. By the time we topped the hill (still going at a hard gallop) I was hanging on with one leg hooked over my horse’s back and one hand in her mane, hauling on the reins with the other hand! I learned to never take “oh-it-won’t-hurt-anything” short-cuts when dealing with large animals in particular, everything in general.

    “Have you ever said no to a good opportunity because you were focused on a greater cause? What helped you to make that decision?”
    Actually, I have said no–just this year. I chose not to play soccer for my college because I wanted to focus on schoolwork. I decided that good grades were more important than sports for me this year (might be different next year–who knows).

    “How do we distinguish between “good things” and “most important” things? What resources has God given us to help us discern?”
    It’s different for everyone. For me, I look at what a certain thing will produce. What will happen if I do this, and is it worthwhile in the long run or not? I try to ask myself figuratively, “Would God smile or frown as I do this?”

  • After getting copper poisoning through tap-water, my body fell behind on the maintenance it took to support three to four hours a day at the piano. Over the past two and half years since the problem surfaced, all too often I have chosen to play rather than do the hard thing and say “no.” I have a non-inflammatory degenerative condition and at the moment cannot play at all, because I was stupid a few days ago and played too long despite the knowledge that the pain would come. This is a hard lesson, but through many things just this weekend (including your post), God has reminded me that His strength is perfected in my weakness, and that I must count it all joy that I am being tried as His child. I am trying to let patience have its perfect work, but it is hard. Much harder than pushing to learn a new piece or win a competition is facing life unable to play at all with joyful submission to the will of God. God may be taking away what I love to do, and what I thought I used to serve him, and I must bless His name. That’s hard.

    I guess that morphed from “saying no is hard, and I often so something stupid instead,” to “blessing the Lord is hard in the midst of trials.” Anyway, both are true for me right now. Thanks for the post.

  • Wow.

    Thanks for sharing this. I remember when I was nearly seven-years-old, couldn’t swim yet, and was invited to a pool party. Everyone else was diving in, and instead of thinking twice, I dove in anyway – choosing to be without a form of flotation, not wanting to be outdone by my friends, of course, and supposing I was strong enough to manage. 🙂 I would have drowned that day if it wasn’t for the graciousness of God working through my friend’s mother, who pulled me up as I was sinking, unnoticed by the other laughing girls, to the bottom of the pool.

    So true. Sometimes doing hard things is, in fact, saying no.

    Saying no to a great opportunity came in the form of saying no to college this semester. Choosing to leave that in God’s hands for now and run with the ministry opportunities He has given me has been the most difficult choice of my life.

    I came to this conclusion because of the working of the Holy Spirit in the form of godly counsel (my parents, older brother and other spiritual mentors in my life) and little things every day now that confirm I am in His will.

    It is better to be doing a thousand things right that are unnoticed than a thousand things wrong that are.

    And, of course, what matters to Christ in the long run is the fact that we were faithful to Him. If it’s all about performing well for ourselves or for others (in other words, if we’re living in the human arena of approval) we’re missing the mark completely.

    Alex, thank you for your transparency. It is greatly appreciated.

  • Wow, sounds like something I would do 🙂 *lol*. Thanks for posting this. It has been very thought provoking and humbling. Well, I have to get back to my schoolwork. God bless.
    Sister In Christ,

  • I how you feel, having mono all summer has not been fun. I found myself overdoing it too. Yeah, saying no when you want to do something really bad, is a hard thing..

  • i don’t recall doing anything like that, though, knowing me, i probably have. but i really appreciated that post. sometimes i have a hard time saying no, and then i get in way over my head. This was a good reminder that ” doing hard things” is more than just “doing hard things” for the sake of it. thanks for the post! 🙂

  • Thanks for the post! Yes, I have done many stupid things although, surprisingly, none of them are coming to mind, even though I’m sure some of them are quite recent.

    As for the second question concerning saying “no” to something, when it was the right thing to do, here is an example from the beginning of this year:

    I was auditioning for a play at my community theater and on the audition form it asked if I had any date conflicts that would affect when I was able to make rehearsals and performances, etc. I put down a few, one of which was a pretraining for a camp that I was attending in the summer. This camp is a week long training school that trains teens to teach 5-day clubs (Bible clubs for children). I had attended the year before, and it was definitely a priority. I had orginially not received a part and was disappointed, but convinced that God knew what He was doing. The day before rehearsals began I got a call from the director asking if I was still interested. I said that I was, and I received a small part in the chorus.

    Quite a few times, he asked if there was anything I could do to change the conflict of pre-training because he wanted to put me in a bigger part. I talked to the director of the camp, and found it was not possible to do so. The director of the show asked several more times if there was anything I could do to change the dates (which fell on performances), and I was able to barely make it to one, but still unable to change the other. I was ok with this, though, and I never regretted making that decision. I felt a peace about putting the camp first, because I really felt that God wanted me to serve Him there. I was truly blessed by this decision to say “no.”

    I hope that maybe this will encourage some of you to keep fighting for the Lord. I’m not saying that this is what I do all of the time, but by God’s grace, maybe I am getting a very, very little bit better of putting Him first.

  • We all do foolish things whether we want to admit it or not. Its whether we learn from them that is the big thing not the mistake itself.

    P.S Glad you got better

  • Alex:
    Thanks for sharing that. I’m glad you’re feeling better and I hope that you get well soon from whatever your health problem is. Thanks for still living out the “Do Hard Things” message even in when you’re sick and it isn’t easy (I mean even harder than it would otherwise be =). And thanks for the reminder to face and conquer the challenge of saying “no”.


  • Wow, glad you’re all right!
    Thanks so much for posting about this topic. It’s something I’ve been dealing with lately – not quite as severely as your story, but still … 🙂
    God bless!

  • Thanks so much for posting this! I am going through ‘Do Hard Things’ for the second time, and I am really getting pumped up! The problem is…I have no idea how to start! I don’t really go anywhere, I tried LiveJournal but found out it was mostly a homosexual website, and I’m at a loss.

  • Wow…what a challenge! Thanks so much for sharing…I struggle with saying no, too.
    Isn’t it so comforting that we’ve been given the Holy Spirit/The Word/godly mentors and parents to help us make good decisions??

    I often wonder how on earth non-christians do it…thank you Lord for your mercy!!!

  • oh, I feel for you, that makes me feel a bit seasick just thinking about it. I likewise have problems saying no, especially in team situations like that. Thanks for sharing!

  • Something good came out of it all–the Lord used this to teach you, Alex, a lesson. I know it is that way with me. I can make stupid decsions–but I always discover that the Lord uses them in a big way for me!

  • Running, when you know that your body is yelling at you to be still. Yep I know the feeling, but I didn’t learn from it. I just kept going. I have mounds of pride I’m afraid, and my body let me get back to my room before I fell into a heap. Now though I wouldn’t make it through the run. God has a way of grabbing our attention.

  • Haha, Brett told the story at the purpose driven death conferences

    I thought it was funny haha, though we have a lot to learn about saying no when God has obviously said no =)

    God bless you Alex,


  • One thing that helps me to dicern the difference between “good things” and “most important things” is humbly and prayerfully searching my own motives. More than once I have looked deep within my heart, only to discover that my true motives were not what I had convinced myself they were. I actually deceive myself by saying, “I’m doing this for God’s glory,” when in reality, I am simply doing it for myself. BUT…

    …please don’t think I am saying Alex wasn’t running for God’s glory! I am making absolutely no judgements there; so please no one get offended. 🙂 All I am trying to say (and hopefully this is coming off that way) is that sometimes it is easy to get God’s will for us mixed up with our own wants and desires.

    Another thing that I am NOT saying is that God’s will and our desires should be kept seperate. Ideally, our desire should always be that God’s plan be fullfilled in us. But we are sinful humans and we often stray from that path.

    Anyway, those are my thoughts for the day! God bless!

  • Thanks for the post Alex, although I dont advise you to try that again. Don’t worry, we’ve all done not so smart things in our lives, it’s part of growing up.

  • Oh dear. . . what a story!! Thanks for sharing it with all of us, Alex – a very vivid illustration on why not to do stupid hard things. . .

  • What a refreshing post. Thank you for sharing.

    I was accepted to a prestigious theological intensive and had to say no to it. It was a hard lesson but I learned a lot from it. 🙂

  • Thats true is a really good example!!!!
    its hard to say so but we do pretty stupid stuff sometimes, push ourselves to the limit, for not saying no to people…
    Most of the time I have to say no to people even though must of the time I say yes but is just so hard saying no to people when you know they need you… Well these happened last year in finals time, thanks to God Im really good at Math, I was asked by 3 people to help them through the week and spend one day in 2 of the three persons and one of them came home I wanted help them because they needed the help so I push myself harder to make them understand each day, the first day in one of my friends house I stood up really late and woke up early in the morning, the other day was the same and the last day I couldnt pull it together I came back home with my friend and I was tired because I havent slept really well and I couldnt help her as much as I wanted too, picture these from tuesday to thursday I wasnt home until that day and when I was finaly home I was so tired to help anybody else even though she needed me I couldnt help her that much….
    I learned to not push it that much and these year help them to understand right away, you could guess the end of the story two of them passed and one of them burned, I felt so guilty but there was nothing I could do….
    And rest in God to say no and just help two of them or do a schedule to help them before the time comes…
    These post is refreshing thanks for these and I congratulate you both for your book and your site….. keep on changing the world!!!!

  • Alex what kind of illness do you have? Please know that I am praying for Gods Miraculous healing on your body today. In Him Anna H.

  • I just learnt the very same thing this semester in college. I was taking a load of heavy and difficult classes: Physics 230( known to have not more than 10% of students passing each semester), Bilogy 201, ans Calculus two.

    A lot of people told me its too much a load, and told me to be prepared to take Physics the second time in order to pass, but I didn’t believe them.

    Stubbornly, thinking I could do everything, I took the load, and then I found out I couldn’t get everything done in time, and I didn’t have enough energy and time to study all I need to.

    I ended up failing my Physics class. Now, I am preparing to take the class again next semester, and focusing on my other classes. I never failed a class before, and this semester, is my first time.

  • Alex,
    That is really cool I do the same evact thing being competive is sometimes a hard thing to deal with. I ha

  • I just got back from Disney with my ten year old daughter. She has always had a fear of roller coasters. She’s tried a small one near our home, about yearly, and always had to have the thing stopped and get off. Very embarrassing for her.
    At Disney, she wanted to try; she loves water, so we were going to try the one at the Magic Kingdom with the logs…she kept talking herself into it…”the six year olds are doing it”….”I don’t want to be a wimp; am I a wimp, Mommy?”…I didn’t try to push her either way. I agreed to go on it with her if she wanted, but let her know it wasn’t that important, she was free to choose.
    We got right to the point in the line where it said “last chance to get out”. She stopped. Looked scared, about to cry. Apologized. Said she just couldn’t do it.
    As we walked away, I felt a relief, a lightness. I told her this. She said “me too, Mommy!” I pointed out that since we both felt so much better, this had to be a good choice for both of us. We talked about thrill seeking just because the “rest of the crowd” is doing it. I told her I was proud of her. That choosing to say NO to something that just seems dangerous and wrong for her was good practice for when she gets older. There will be tough decisions coming up in the next few years. I was thrilled that she had a chance, in a small way, to see that saying no is sometimes hard, but absolutely the right thing to do. Told her that being courageous didn’t mean having the wherewithall to get on a roller coaster, but instead, having the strength to refuse.
    The 10 year olds have to start small, but I think she got the message.

  • Thanks for posting that.
    I just went to a video conference and loved it.
    And this topic I had questions on. We shouldn’t do “every hard thing” just because it is hard. But we should do hard things for a great cause.
    Thanks soo much!

  • My pastor once said, “You know what God wants you to do.” I think that this is so true and yet many times we forget it. If we are truly willing to let everyone go and put our own selfish desires out of the way, we would know exactly what to do. Reading verses in the bible would confirm your decisions. Praying would help you to see the right decisions. Seeking others Godly advice would also help confirm your decision. It’s not about what you want to do, but about what God wants you to do. Many times that is something that in the end you will benefit from beyond all measures. That is my input at least.
    ~Living for Him

  • I had an opportunity like that recently when I was offered to play on a soccer team with some of my friends, but it didn`t work out because it interfeared with our family time. Thanks for the post it realy encouaraged me in that area.

  • Wow. Thanks for sharing that story Alex! It got me to think about the times when I should have said no to things but didn’t. I really liked the book “Do Hard Things” by the way. My youth group is doing a study on it.

    Thank’s and God bless.

    Hannah 🙂

  • Wow. That is an awsome post. I’ve had hardtimes saying no, I think that very few people haven’t. Alex, you are a big encouragement to me. I am praying for you!


  • Alex, you may have had a touch of rhabdomyolosis. As you said, your body produced an excess of lactic acid – not only too much for your muscles to handle, but too much for your body to handle at that time.

    Your workout was a series of sprints strung together – a very effective workout, but one you gotta work up to.

    All of this leads me to…
    Allow me to direct you to, of which I’m an avid fan. Crossfit cross-trains in several disciplines to achieve the best all-around fitness. Each of their workouts work toward functional fitness, real-world fitness. They’re quick but extraordinarily effective, because they try for that middle level between all-out sprint and long-distance effort. Tailor them to fit your current fitness level.

    I think the spirit of this program fits well with your general ethos, which is quite a compliment to both.

    The SEALS, Special Forces, and Marines are all gonzo about the program, and in the Army (I’m an Army lieutenant and longtime fan), it’s catching on.

  • I played that game once, and, well let’s just say I almost knocked our youth pastor down. Yeah, I was teased about that for a long time.

  • Hello There. I found your weblog using msn. This is a really smartly written article. I’ll make sure to bookmark it and return to learn extra of your helpful info. Thanks for the post. I’ll definitely return.

  • Hi there are using WordPress for your blog platform? I’m new to the blog world but I’m trying to get started and set up my own. Do you need any coding expertise to make your own blog? Any help would be really appreciated!

  • This is probably exactly the answers I was searchin for. I honestly must thank you for providing me with this knowledge. I’d really enjoy to exchange several emails, because I want to learn more. Perhaps we can contact one another some time. Thanks again, and Keep it up my friend!

rebelling against low expectations

The Rebelution is a teenage rebellion against low expectations—a worldwide campaign to reject apathy, embrace responsibility, and do hard things. Learn More →