Follow Your Agony Sue Monk Kidd

Following your agony does not seem like the easiest route to a hassle free life. Follow your bliss seems a much more desirable alternative and looks way better as the motto on your family’s coat of arms. Sequere beatitudinem tuam anyone?

Follow your bliss! Do what you love! Don’t worry, Be happy! Listen to your heart! All are pithy aphorisms that sound rather pleasant, seem completely desirable, and present a succinct and easy-to-follow recipe for living the carefree life. Not to mention the fact that they are appropriately sized for all delicate tattoo locations. Think about it: who wouldn’t want to only do what they love? Sorry Mom, can’t listen to your problems. I’m doing what I love!

Yet I find myself returning frequently to a hastily jotted note in my journal. A quote grabbed out of context from a sermon on grace:

It doesn’t matter what kind of designer life you make for yourself. Something will ruin it.

Something. Awful bosses, death, flat tires, broken equipment, rabid dogs, cancer, brush fires, boys-who-can’t-commit, EBOLA even!  Something — always unexpected and mostly likely unimagined — is guaranteed to rock your bliss. There is no such thing as a hassle free life.

Which leads me to the inevitable agonies of life. It seems counterintuitive at first that agony is the way to find your true self or deepest happiness. Suffering is painful and disruptive and often seems unnecessary. Afterall, Happiness begets happiness, right?

Except we all know that gold and silver are made pure by refining at high temperatures and diamonds are created over time under extreme pressure and intense heat.  And there are, of course, the people (Dr. King, William Wilberforce, Gandhi, Corrie Ten Boom among others) who followed their agony –often to death — and lived lives of significance that glimmered and helped others despite the suffering they faced.  The Passion (or agony) of Jesus is the perfect example of this.

For my birthday this year, I declared this quote by Helen Keller as my motto for the year:


Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet

And it’s still rings true. My own agonies of this year have produced grit, character, and, more than anything else, a necessary reordering of my priorities.

It is tempting to run, to turtle and hide when (see again the inevitability of suffering) hard times arrive, but I’ll encourage you to stick it out. To Follow Your agony instead of your bliss.

One Comment on “Follow Your Agony?

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