What Is Reasonable to Ask of Yourself?

I am a person who probably asks too much of herself, in many areas of my life. I’m wildly conscientious, deeply intentional, and  I have been this way for a long time. So I am possibly not the best judge of how much to ask of oneself.

I’m far from the only one: at church, this weekend, I saw a friend and her husband carrying a brand new baby. They have two older kids, and the last time I saw the friend, she was hugely pregnant. I waited for them after church, to congratulate them on their bundle. They told me the baby had been born the day before. I’m guessing they came right from the hospital to church. That seems nearly heroic, in what they ask of themselves, to me.

But I just had an encounter with someone who doesn’t seem (in my very biased opinion) to ask very much of herself, all things considered. At the slightest resistance, she throws up her hands and declares situations to be someone else’s problem. I’ve had a morning filled with such people.

And I’m not immune to that—when I ran track, we started practice by running a prescribed distance. I’d run until I tasted blood (I’m asthmatic, which is why I was on the track team— to build my cardiovascular capacity), and then alternate running and walking. It seems like there was always a coach next to me, looking disappointed and telling me to push a little farther. (Lest you think me a slacker, there were days I’d push myself until I threw up— I just didn’t see the point in doing it in a daily warm-up activity, because it would waste me for the bulk of the practice.) In the gym, post-organized athletics days, also, I’m not sure I’ve always pushed as hard as I can. There are times when I cut myself entirely too much slack about dating, about writing, etc. But during those times, you can usually find me holding myself to a tough standard somewhere else in my life.

It’s entirely possible that I’m missing this person’s dogged pursuit of greatness, but what I think (and I have a fairly good idea for how they spend their time), is that this person feels like their striving days are largely over, and they think they shouldn’t have to contribute even as much as they currently do.

I’m not naive enough to think that I can force this person to share my perspective. Truly. But being someone who carries a lot of their water that wouldn’t otherwise be carried, at what point is it fair for me to say “try harder, please”?

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