The following is a letter
I wrote to a friend of mine who was splitting up with his wife.
I had lunch with him and we talked for several hours. He told
me his problems and asked for my help. Afterwards I wrote him
this letter. It is about commitment and overcoming your own mind's
decision to give up on your goal.
Since having lunch with you, I've been
thinking more about it, of course. I want you to know I am impressed
with your commitment and your willingness to change. I believe
in you, Tim. I think you are a better man than you think you
Here's what I was thinking about. I just
watched a movie last night called Door
to Door. It is the true story of Bill Porter, a man with
cerebral palsy who got a job as a door to door salesman, selling
soap and other goods, and became a top salesman. He has a difficult
time walking, writing, carrying things, and speaking, and yet
he won Salesman of the Year at his company. When he showed up
at their doors, some people were automatically put off by his
appearance and inability to speak clearly, but he was persistent.
He accepted people's responses, and after awhile his kindness
and goodness and courage and persistence overcame everyone's
I love movies like that. Rudy
is my favorite a true story of persistence and courage
and overcoming tremendous odds. Or the movie October
Sky. These are true stories. These guys really did go through
all that heartache and tribulation and really did ultimately
achieve their goal.
Having just watched Door
to Door, and being inspired by someone overcoming tremendous
odds with everything stacked against him, and people making fun
of him and automatically wanting nothing to do with him because
he was a "freak," and then hearing you today saying
youre going to give up (and stop reading books on relationships
because they give you false hope), I don't know...it
made me think.
I know it's painful for you to keep trying
with Karen. I know you want to give up. I know you think she
has given up, and you might even be right. But she has been through
a lot. Even you say so. You have caused her pain. And that's
what I was thinking: That now she is causing you pain,
so you want to give up. But haven't you caused her pain?
Doesn't it somehow seem a basic justice that she should cause
you pain too?
What if you thought of the pain as amends
you are making for all the stupid stuff you've done to hurt others
in your lifetime? Wouldn't that change your willingness to feel
the pain? I know you are capable of tolerating pain. Nobody succeeds
as a bodybuilder as well as you have unless they can experience
and accept pain and keep going.
But you think of the pain during weight
lifting as good for you, right? Just part of the process.
And you consider the pain you feel when Karen cries or criticizes
as bad for you. But maybe it is just as good for
you. Maybe it's good for your personal growth if you took it
the right way. Maybe it's good for your relationship. Maybe it's
good for your future.
And not only that, your willingness to
take the pain and listen anyway might soften her heart. It could
change her mind. It could prove to her you really are
This about this. If you are willing to
cause pain but not experience it yourself, thats
one kind of person. But if you are no longer willing to
cause pain but are willing to experience the pain of guilt
and remorse if you are willing to make up for your
past deeds that is a different kind of person. Thats
a man of character strength.
This kind of character strength changes
peoples' hearts. Have you ever seen the movie Gandhi?
They showed a scene where Gandhi had organized a protest march
on a salt manufacturing company (owned by the government). Government
troops were guarding the salt company. Four by four, the Indians
marched up and all of them get hit over the head with police
batons. Brutal. The Indians didn't even raise their hands to
defend themselves. Down they went. This event really happened.
The next group of four marched forward,
and they were hit on the head and carried off. Rows of
four marched up all day and all night. When this story broke,
it sent shockwaves throughout the world, and through the pain
of the Indians, British people had a change of heart. They didn't
want their government or their troops to inflict pain and suffering
on the Indians any longer. Without firing a shot, without inflicting
violence against the British, with this kind of commitment and
character strength, the Indians were able to make one of the
most powerful countries in the world eventually stop the military
occupation of India.
Given all this, what about you? Can you
stick with it even though it seems hopeless? Can you stick with
it even though it causes you pain? Can you learn to see the pain
as a kind of justice, and righting of wrongs? Can you set a completely
awesome example for your two little daughters? And for their
sake? I think you can.
Today at lunch you kept using the phrase
"false hope." I have read a huge number of true stories
about people in impossible situations who were determined to
succeed and who were able to achieve the seemingly impossible.
So the phrase "false hope" doesnt have any meaning
to me. That is what someone calls it who is giving up.
When Rudy couldn't get into Notre Dame
the first time or the second time or the third time or the fourth
time he tried, someone with less determination could easily have
said he had "false hope." In fact, I think that is
the exact phrase his high school teacher used when he told Rudy
he should forget about going to Notre Dame because he couldnt
possibly do it.
But he did do it. And now we would
never say his hope and his determination were false. In fact,
I don't even like the word hope. It's too wimpy. I like commitment
and determination. Don't hope for it. Make it happen instead.
Not with force, but with character strength. With your actions,
with what you are willing to suffer through, with your commitment.
You have it in you. I've looked in your eyes and I see it. You
can do this, but not with a half-assed, one-foot-out-the-door
kind of approach.
I'm not putting you down. You have really
impressed me with what you've done. But stop thinking about "false
hope" and stop thinking this pain is bad for you.
And start memorizing that list of thought-mistakes I gave you, and work hard
to find those mistakes in your thinking. Catch yourself pessimistically
making those cognitive mistakes over and over. Just catch yourself.
After awhile, you'll stop making those mistakes, and your thinking
will clear up, and it will help your determination and positive
I'm still rooting for you. And I'm rooting
for your girls. And I hope someday to come over to your house
and play with your daughters again and see you and Karen happily
married. It can happen. If you decide it can happen, if
you have enough courage and persistence and determination, it
really can happen. It is only false hope if you stop short
and give up. Even if she moves out, the game is not over.
Not until you say it is. She obviously loved you once.
And you loved her. And still love her. There was a reason the
love was there. And it can be again, and when it is, you
will have changed in a way youll be proud of. And so will
she. And so will your daughters.
The follow up to this story
is that Tim didn't give up. He straightened up and solved
his problems, and he and his wife got back together. It is two
years later, and he is a better man, they have a better relationship,
and they're both very glad he committed himself to change. And
his daughters' lives will benefit ever after.