Ever heard the phrase, “one step forward, two steps back?” Essentially, it means that sometimes in life it feels like for every bit of progress we make, other things may sabotage our success and leave us feeling further behind then when we began! And we all know what a crummy feeling that is – discouragement; disillusionment; wondering if it’s worth the time and effort involved for so little return. Not a fun place to be, right?
I keep hearing friends quote this phrase lately, and it seems to me that in life we’re either focused on bravely taking “one step forward” or the disappointment of “two steps back.” It takes a tremendous amount of courage to step out in faith; to try something new; to begin. And when things don’t work out like you’d planned or the real world stomps on the sunshine you felt while getting started, it’s easy to get mired down in the swamp of “if only” or “why me” or other self-defeating, negative (but totally understandable) human thoughts.
What if we’re focusing on the wrong part of this phrase? Yes, we need to get started. Yes, we need to pray and fight through times of perceived defeat and dismay. But after we do those things, what’s next?
I think the most vital part of this phrase is contained in what we do after we begin AND we experience life’s little moments that take us to a place of digging in our heels or running for the hills. Do we continue? Do we quit? The former is harder in the short-term (quitting always feels a bit easier), but the latter may create space in our souls for regret later on, and that’s not a pretty thing, either. Quitting doesn’t have the greatest connotation as a word, but remember that it’s not meant necessarily as a negative, because stopping one thing creates space and energy for something new.
Before we decide whether to keep going or quit, it’s so important that we take a step back from the emotion of the moment. Pause for a while; consider the situation; and ask yourself the following:
Is it really that bad?
What good can still be found in this new beginning or even what looks like a setback?
What would it take to persevere and just keep going?
Is there a new direction worth investigating before throwing in the towel completely?
Once you’ve considered these questions, it’s time to pray. See what God has to say about the situation, and whether any conclusions you come up with line up with what He says and wants you to do.
Let’s be honest: Sometimes self-reflection and prayer confirms that quitting IS the best course of action, and that’s okay. But you want to be an “informed quitter” – you want to know you are making the best decision for rational reasons and not sowing the seeds of regret for later.
If you can find a new angle; a new direction; a path you hadn’t previously considered; or even the faith to keep your feet moving in their current direction, you may well find the motivation to take yet another “one step forward.” Or maybe you’ll see that those “two steps back” were really God’s way of giving you a new perspective on what’s next.