Dallas Willard, one of my favorite authors, once told John Ortberg, pastor of a mega-church in California, “Ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.” This admonition came in response to Ortberg’s request for advice in his new, demanding role as Senior Pastor. I see that quote now posted everywhere. I quote it in my book, Space to Breathe Again. By reducing or eliminating hurry, we make space for calm and peace. Hurry is overrated. It hardly saves any time and costs us immense amounts of stress and anxiety.
I want to borrow Willard’s phrase and expand on it. Ruthless is a violent word, unbending, and unyielding. If we’re going to find life amid a culture that overloads us at every turn in every way, we need to be ruthless. Culture is like a strong current. It moves us where it wants without us even feeling its effect. Try swimming against it and quickly learn its power.
The relentless pressure of culture is why we need to be ruthless. Half-hearted efforts will net halfway results. So, let’s get ruthless in our striving to recover life.
- Ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life. Willard’s words bear repeating. Rushing is a terrible habit. This one consistent change, eliminating hurry, will positively affect mood, relationships, and even productivity.
- Ruthlessly eliminate worthless clutter from your life. Clutter includes the things we own, the time our things require for maintenance, the money we spend acquiring new clutter, and the fatigue of wading through all of the mess. Clutter also includes the unnecessary “can’t live without” additions to our schedules that leave us breathless and exhausted.
- Ruthlessly eliminate unnecessary noise from your life. Noise is particularly relentless these days with Covid still lingering and politics still screaming. Being informed, though, does not necessitate always listening to every voice. Noise also includes positive voices at times. It’s telling that we now need guided meditations (noise) to quiet down. Podcasts are great, but can we really absorb all of this good information? Somewhere in our lives, we need to learn to be quiet, to embrace silence.
- Ruthlessly eliminate endless distraction from your life. It seems to me that we are losing this battle. Despite all sorts of books, including mine, that rant against the ubiquitous presence of smartphones at every turn, I still see utter addiction to the stimulating distraction of our devices. I am not immune. I still fight the lure to pick up my phone at the first sign of a break. Nowhere is ruthless determination more needed than in this arena of distraction. It is time to stop ranting and start changing.
Only when we ruthlessly eliminate that which chokes joy and peace will we find room for God, space for relationships, clarity for purpose, and quiet for peace. The stakes are higher than we can ever imagine. Ten or twenty years from now, we will look back, and our lives will reflect, for good or bad, the efforts we put forth today. Today is the day to take action. Take one specific, concrete, committed step in the right direction. Tell a friend and commit to the change together. Do whatever it takes. Get ruthless!