I once saw a young man, 19, who was obviously unhappy. He was drinking regularly, having sex with a number of women, sleeping long hours and often missing his college classes and shifts at his part-time job.
I attempted to create an atmosphere where he could trust and feel loved. I asked how his life was working for him, and he said everything was “fine.” He was there only because his parents thought he needed some help. I pointed out the behaviors that clearly were not working for him, but he continued to maintain that he was fine. He said he didn’t need any help.
I asked how he got to Georgia, and he said he’d flown on a plane with his parents. “So,” I asked, “what if you’d had trouble in the air on the way here? What if the plane had rapidly descended with a possibility of crashing? Would you have rushed to the cockpit to give your advice, or would you have stayed in your seat and left it to the pilot to figure out?”
“The pilot,” he said.
“Because he has a lot more experience.”
“Yes,” I said, “by thousands of times. And I have that much more experience than you do with life. I’m telling you with absolute certainty that your life isn’t ‘fine.’ You’re just surviving, and you’re not that far from crashing either. I’m giving you an opportunity to be a thousand times happier than you are now. You don’t even know what I’m talking about, but it’s still true.”
“I don’t want to do it.”
“What’s the down side? What’s the risk? Why not at least find out what it would be like to be happier?”
“I don’t want to talk about feelings, or do any of that touchy stuff.”
“Because it’s uncomfortable.”
I described how I had once lived in the jungle for two years, and how sometimes we ate live tree grubs—essentially like worms but shorter and fatter. “What if I paid you a million dollars to eat a worm. Would you?” I asked.
“But I’m telling you that I can help you be a thousand times happier than you are now—worth a lot more than a million dollars—and you won’t put up with being just a little ‘uncomfortable?’”
He refused. There simply is no way to change the direction of our lives—to genuinely grow—without some stretching and faith, which are always uncomfortable to some degree. In order to get what want, sometimes we just have to eat some worms. If we’re not willing, the greatest rewards of life remain out of our reach.