Discomfort

“The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.”

~M.Scott Peck

Last week I posted about “discomfort” on my personal blog. I won’t be reproducing the post here, because it contains profanity and that might offend some of our gentler readers. But if you are interested in reading it, here is the link.

And to build on that theme, I’ll share a personal story. I’ve started waking super-early a few mornings each week to paddle my canoe in a group practice. This is a practice run by an Olympic-medalist kayaker, and most of the paddlers either have decades of experience or are ‘elite’-level athletes. This group is almost all men.

The first day I joined this practice I was terrified. I imagined that they would paddle out ahead of me and I would quickly be on my own in the dark waters of the Back Bay. But I knew that I couldn’t get better at my sport if I were too afraid to practice with people who were better than me, so I just did it, imagining that I could live down the humiliation. And as I dropped my boat in the water and paddled out, I was in profound discomfort–I wanted nothing more than to disappear.*

Long story short: discomfort is necessary to grow and learn. Heavenly Father knows that all too well. But there is a fine line between a healthy level of discomfort and doing something foolish/profane/unruly. I suspect that we all make mistakes in pushing that boundary too far sometimes.

So my question for you is: What have you done recently that resulted in discomfort (for you, or those around you)? Was it productive discomfort? Or not?

*FWIW, despite my initial concern, I’m holding my own in the morning practices, and seem to have earned the respect of many of the ‘guys.’  🙂

Jana

Jana is university administrator and History professor. Her soloblog is http://janaremy.com/pilgrimsteps/

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6 Responses

  1. Corktree says:

    I really enjoyed your other post and the comments – especially your choice of metaphor 😉 I think it’s like Deborah and Caroline said, this space appears to be walking a line. I’ve been confused by it myself, though I feel very at home here. I’ve tried to figure out who it is you are trying to reach with these messages, and it makes sense that if it is the larger audience of Mormon women, then, like Caroline said, a bridge must be made. If it were those who are already itching to make a difference because they have these inclinations and are fed up with playing it safe, then I think a little more edginess is required, but not in the form of profanity. Both sides are necessary in order to move forward I think, but one almost always makes the other uncomfortable. Too edgy, too safe – both will hinder progress.

    As for me, I recently had a *very* uncomfortable encounter with a new set of visiting teachers. I was swallowed up by their references to subjects that I have long come to view almost completely from the opposite side of the spectrum. I sat dumbfounded and at a loss for words in front of two women that embodied almost everything that we are fighting to change in the church (perhaps fighting is too strong a word, but go with me…).

    I was made uncomfortable by their black and white statements. They were made uncomfortable by my silence. It was an entirely UNproductive conversation – EXCEPT for the fact that I was made aware in my mind of the reality that this was only one of MANY encounters that I will have with these women, and that it is important for me to start on the right foot. I tried to show them that I am a normal (somewhat) mother, wife, sister, daughter with a testimony of the core of the Gospel. I wanted them to see that we have common ground, and I knew, somehow, that I would have the opportunity to share my extracurricular views and beliefs down the road. Perhaps when they know me better, it will not seem so heretical to them.

    So yes, from some wonderful discomfort, I see a good spot for a bridge to be built, and I hope that it will one day yield some more productive conversation – on my part and theirs.

    As an aside, I’ve always questioned the role of profanity in making a point. Not that we should litter our conversations with them, and I’m aware of the value of using language more precisely, but I’ve recently gone back to using some occasional words in conversations with my husband (never around the kids). Sometimes, there just isn’t another way to create the same feeling you mean to convey, no matter how well you master English. Not sure if that’s right or not, but like you mentioned, the tweet would not have had the same effect otherwise.

  2. EmilyCC says:

    Oh, Jana! This post is so timely for me. I recently started reading a book that I just want to throw away and pretend doesn’t exist (it’s full of poverty, child abuse, incest and failed social systems told in a style I haven’t seen much of), but I realize I need to read this book to better understand that other people lead lives SO different from mine and to see how their different lifestyles shape their valuable perspectives.

    In retrospect, I’m usually glad when I’ve been made uncomfortable by something I’ve read or heard because I’m far more likely to think about it, but I don’t seek it out 🙂

  3. Deborah says:

    Corktree: I’m so glad you are here with us! I read the account of that VT visit here and (in more detail) in your comment at FMH. Ouch. I am discomfitted just reading it. And I’m not sure what I would have done in your place.

    Jana, I think a lot about this topic. About the squirming that comes with growing. I push for change and dislike conflict. Now there’s a recipe for discomfort! I wonder how much I apply the “Zone of Proximal Development” theory to church matters. ZPD is the way I breath in my professional life — identifying 1) where a student is, 2) what they can do with help, and 3) what is out of their range at the moment. Once 2 becomes 1, 3 becomes 2. And up we climb . . . of course, this works in the classroom because I am in a position of authority the classroom and in the parent community. It’s my job and I’m trusted to do it. The norms are established. The learning can be uncomfortable at times for the students, but it’s a well trodden path and I know they will be better readers and writers (and hopefully thinkers) at the end of it. I have no such authority at church. So, by necessity (in where I am right now) it becomes about building relationships over time, having the confidence to speak up when something needs to be said, and choosing my battles.

  4. Stella says:

    I like when I feel uncomfortable. It’s been good for me. It goes away and then you push yourself even more. Like when you first try to do the splits.

    The problem for me is that my family sees my discomfort as proof of my “sins” (in my thoughts and actions). They often try to get me to see that if I feel uncomfortable, it is a huge SIGN that I should come back to the safe haven of where they still feel the most comfort.

  5. Rebecca says:

    Having friends with different political or religious views has sometimes made me uncomfortable but I know it’s opened up my view of the world, and added a richness to my experience.

  1. October 3, 2010

    […] Blasphemy Rights Day with Robojesus, Marcus contemplates spirituality, and Jana analyzes discomfort and the use of naughty words. And, sadly, the economy is catching up with some of […]

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