Do The Hard Thing

 In Character, Community, Duty, Faith, Family, Fred's Blog, Friendship, People, Relationships, Uncategorized, Vocation

Listen to “Do The Hard Thing” by Fred Smith

As you walk into my office and look toward the small table by the window you will see a sign that reads, “Do what you love and you will never work a day in your life.” I put it there for a couple of reasons. First, as a reminder of how much I love what I do – and how little I like routine jobs. Second, I have more than a few people drop by and disclose they are not doing what they love. I want to give them a little foretaste of what I am most likely to say when we are finished.

As much as anyone I know I’ve probably lived by that simple code. I have actively avoided getting entangled by tasks that bore, drain, frustrate or take me out of my zone of satisfaction. In fact, in talking with a young friend the other day about my inevitable retirement he said, “Your working life is what everyone hopes for in life and retirement. To do what you love is what we are all after. What in the world are you thinking? To what would you retire?” He was right. I have not worked a day in my life for a couple of decades now. “Follow your passion” has made so much sense. 

Well, that’s not entirely true as teaching a Sunday School has taught me to do things I do not love and for which I have very little passion or natural competence. I tried to slough off the visitation, counseling, confronting, hand-holding, and grief to others early on because it was not what I naturally enjoyed. By not having the gifts of compassion or mercy there was no reason to go and sit with people waiting for surgery or just coming out. There were no tangible benefits to them or me in saying hard things to a wandering spouse or sitting with my hand on the arm of one in deep waters. I’m not proud of what I’m telling you. Dr. John Townsend would say I was living a life of entitlement without recognizing it for what it was. “Entitlement is the belief that I am exempt from responsibility and I am owed special treatment.” How could that be? I was living a life of joy and passion. It just didn’t include something I had missed entirely.

What Is Duty?

Then one day my wife Carol explained there is such a thing as Duty. I knew that but always equated it with guilt or mere obligation. Worse, I thought it was closer to shame. If you don’t do it you will be a bad person. Duty was something that made you do what you didn’t want to do. But that’s not duty, is it? That’s grudging obligation. Duty is what you do to honor your commitment to a calling to serve others. Doing their duty in giving was what Paul described in Romans when he said, “They were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews’ spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings.” There are things we owe to others. People don’t care if I’m not good at compassion nor do they care if I have all the answers in their darkest times. I realized it was not about doing only what I enjoyed or for what I had a feel. It was doing the necessary parts of what I had been called to do for them because that is my role and responsibility – even if it was not my love.

So, now I have added another sign inspired by Dr. John Townsend: “Do The Hard Thing.” Do what may not come naturally but is the right thing to do. It is what you owe. It is what people have every right to expect from you. For me today, it is not out of guilt or unhealthy obligation – but not yet entirely out of love. Maybe someday. It is a duty and one that has begun to make me fit for eternity far more than doing merely what I love.

Do your duty and purchase a copy of “Where The Light Divides” here.

Art by Norman Rockwell

 

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Showing 16 comments
  • Avatar
    Howard Freeman
    Reply

    When job interviewers ask a candidate, “Tell me a weakness of yours,” and the candidate replies, “Well, some people tell me I work too hard; I’m a bit of a workaholic,” that’s imitation humility sushi wrapped in ego seaweed.

    Your candor — “I’m not proud of what I’m telling you” — and true humility is what keeps me reading this blog. Even more compelling to me than what you say, Fred, is how and why you say it.

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      Well, that’s an image I am going to carry with me today! Thank you, Howard.

      • Avatar
        Gina
        Reply

        carol is my hero ❤️
        She is doing her duty

        • Fred Smith
          Fred Smith
          Reply

          She is that for sure! I will pass this along to her when she returns from shopping for Thanksgiving, working are Bethesda Clinic, organizing Sunday School, and taking care of her mother. Thank you, Gina!

  • Avatar
    Susan Jackson
    Reply

    Good morning, Fred. I bought your book! I love your book! We will all benefit from your decision to do your Duty.

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      Thank you, Susan! We have to be pushy as authors!

  • Avatar
    Joe McIlhaney
    Reply

    it would be great if every day at work was always like a day on the beach. But we all know that is not always true. I think it is important to know that what we are doing is what we are supposed to be doing-by God. and this not with a sense of guilt if we don’t, or a sense of doing something that needs to be done (there are always a lot of those), but truly, with freedom in our hearts-that we are doing what we are supposed to be doing. if we are I think there is joy and freedom in our hearts as we do it. Because there will be hard times-such as having to dismiss an employee because of funding shortfall, and other issues. But if we KNOW this is our calling and have freedom of heart, we will persist with comfort

  • Avatar
    John Wierick
    Reply

    Duty is singing in a memorial choir independent of musical giftedness. And I know one family that was deeply touched by it and will never forget it.

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      That was love and duty and respect and gratitude and joy. Thank you for the opportunity. However, I was surprised they did not ask me to solo.

  • Avatar
    Joe Wu
    Reply

    While they are not necessarily distinct, I too often find myself distinguishing between doing what I love and doing why I must (duty) in my perception going into the decision – one that promises enjoyment with the other devoid of the same. Yet your article today reminds me of the perspective shared by the servant charged to steward multiple talents and the solder called to obedience before his superior. If my motivation and enjoyment can be based on the pleasure of my Master/Superior, doing what I must (duty) can be no different than doing what I love – even when its hard. Thanks, Fred, for the blog and your call to action.

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      Thank you, Joe. I like that Paul says “they were pleased” when they did their duty. That’s the best of both worlds!

  • Avatar
    Karen K Jones
    Reply

    I recently “retired”. Being a pastor I decided to stay on at my church as “part time.” It was agreeable by all concerned, and I soon learned why … because there really is no “part time” when it comes to any job well done. I had hoped to continue doing the fun stuff; working with ministries and creating and encouraging people to do things they don’t think they can do. But I have quickly figured out that I still have the responsibility of the stuff I wanted to move off my plate – like the counseling, grief and recovery, financial burdens, etc.. Your writing has touched a chord with me. It has made me remember that a job is never done well unless it is done in entirety – the enjoyable plus the less than desirable. It is all about doing the easy stuff and the hard stuff. And I guess the true satisfaction of doing any task well is being able to complete the hard stuff with a level of competence that gives those you serve plus yourself satisfaction.

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      Karen – I could have predicted that! It is not in you to “retire” or to pick and choose what looks pleasant and leave the rest to someone else. What were you thinking? You are what we used to call “a lifer” in the Navy. All in.

  • Avatar
    Robin Gingerich
    Reply

    Fred, first of all I am glad Carol got you to think about the concept of duty and that you wrote about it. It doesn’t have to be a “dirty” word. Thank you for your thoughtful words.
    I’d like to address the first part though, about “doing what you love” – how fortunate for those people that are able to do that but whenever I hear that phrase there is an inkling in me that feels it is a little elitist. I think about the sanitation workers that every day pick up others’ trash or the factory workers that are in assembly lines all day making things for us – some things of necessity and some not, or the waitress standing on her feet all day to serve us. I wonder if the idea of avocation has been lost. For many, many people their job, that puts the food on their table, are not doing what they love and they don’t have the luxury of doing what they love. Perhaps we could help each other find an avocation – one that provides the same fulfillment. I don’t know how to articulate it as something bigger than a hobby, but I think it could be. I so enjoy reading your writings, finding them thoughtful and thought provoking as we probably differ when it comes to theology.

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      Thank you, Robin. I agree. The whole idea of finding work you loved is completely unrealistic for most of the planet. It is clearly an issue
      for very few people. I wrote this a while back to address the issue you raise. I think we are on the same page.

      https://thegathering.com/labor-pains/

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