By David Hegg
I’ve been pondering the idea of “stepping out of my comfort zone.” Like me, you’ve heard this many times. We’ve been encouraged to do it, to go outside the supposed boundaries of our comfort. Those calling us to do so make it sound like comfort is a bad thing, self-centered, and ultimately, a barrier to better living. And all this time I’ve believed that comfort was a good thing! So, I’ve been thinking about this, and have come to a conclusion: calling someone to “step out of their comfort zone” is foolish, and actually quite counter-productive.
If the thing you want us to do is “outside” the zone of comfort, then even if we do it, we’ll just retreat back into the zone when you’re not looking. This is especially true if you keep telling us that the “thing” is actually uncomfortable! So, I have a better idea.
Here it is: Instead of saying “step out of your comfort zone” to get me to do something uncomfortable, say “enlarge your comfort zone to encompass a new opportunity.”
Enlarging my comfort zone calls on me to do two things. First, to believe that there are actually “comfortable” things that I don’t now recognize. Second, to understand that once I recognize and grasp those as-yet unknown comfortable things, it will make my life so much better! And isn’t that what we all want anyway? Don’t we want some more “comfortable” things that more and more occupy our lives with great variety?
I guess the real problem is change. As a student of society, change is something I find inevitable. If the business books and the ministry books are right, the pace of change is not going to slow down anytime soon. Given this, it is quite disconcerting to hear on every hand that “people hate change.” Actually, I don’t think its true. Here’s why:
When people say, “I hate change,” what they’re really saying is “I hate the thought that change might make me uncomfortable.”
They begin with the point of view that change will be bad, even though there is a case to be made that change is often good. God must have thought change was a good idea when He decided to make the sun come up and go down every day. Every one of the 24 hours in His days is a study in change. The Earth is constantly rotating, bringing the change of light and darkness, while it constantly revolves around the sun, bringing the change of seasons. Trees change colors, grass grows, and we grow older every day. Nothing remains static: not our eyesight, or nails, or hair, or weight, sadly!
As human beings, we are a “change machine.” Every day we are different, and were it not so, we would be bored. Remember? “Variety is the spice of life.” We need change, and we actually love it … so long as we can still be comfortable!
We also love change outside of ourselves. Who doesn’t enjoy a new purchase, a new car, a new couch? Who doesn’t enjoy a new restaurant find, a new book, a new blouse or suit coat? And what about the growth and maturity of a child? Don’t we work hard to bring about change in our kids, as they progress from self-centered brats into helpful, loving adults? Don’t we pray for change when they’re in junior high? And wasn’t the greatest change in all of life something we actually made happen, when we decided to have kids in the first place? Talk about change!
So why do we always hear that “people hate change?” The truth is that people hate being uncomfortable, and it is this preoccupation with self that prevents most of us from even considering that change can be good.
Perhaps the real problem with change is that we’ve become so comfortable with ourselves. When Jesus came into this world, what He brought was God’s mirror. He forced us to look at ourselves as God sees us, with all of our brokenness in plain sight. But then, through the power of His redemptive love, He also called us to that kind of change that brings life eternal. Ultimately, change is our only hope.
So, try this: Think of something you’re uncomfortable doing, but you know would improve your life. Then check off all the myths you believe that keep you from being comfortable doing what you know is best, and what God calls you to. Then do it! And when you find the reward that change can bring you won’t be tempted to retreat to a zone of comfort; rather, you’ll find that your zone has grown to encompass what God has in mind.
So, don’t settle for “stepping out.” Grow your zone!
David Hegg is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church and a Santa Clarita resident.“Ethically Speaking” appears Sundays.