I’ve heard it lots and lots of times. I CAN’T do that. Most of the time the item being referenced could be characterized by one of the following four general areas:
- I can’t change a habit or behavior.
- I can’t change my mind (on a difficult subject).
- I can’t learn a new skill (such as walking on a prosthesis).
- I can’t overcome a fear.
In many cases, the thing a person is trying to overcome is difficult, often requiring great effort and discipline. But “can’t”?
Sure, there are times when CAN’T is the only word you can use. Like when a person has lost their eyesight and really CAN’T see. However, most of the people I’ve heard use the word are copping out, refusing to face their fear, or simply don’t want to make the effort required. They don’t intend to do differently.
The New Testament is replete with passages about this reticence we are talking about. Jesus called his disciples, “O ye of little faith” when they allowed fears to overwhelm them. The man who was entrusted with one talent in Matthew 25:14-30 told his master that he was afraid. So, he buried his talent in the ground as the safest, low-demand thing he could do. And Peter denied Jesus three times because he was afraid that he too would be arrested.
On the other hand, history is full of people who walked into danger because they believed in something larger than themselves, such as John Lewis who walked across the Edmund Pettus Bridge and nearly died. Or MLK who said that he knew he was going to die for the cause of racial justice, but nevertheless persevered in his cause. Jesus had to face down fear and even prayed that he would not have to go to the cross.
There are many people I’ve known who said, “I CAN’T.” However, they don’t really mean that. They should say, “I WON’T” instead. “I’m afraid of what it will cost me or what will happen if I do.”
Nicholas Vujicic was born in 1982 in Melbourne, Australia, without arms and legs. Yet he is happily married, speaks to audiences worldwide, and is the head of a non-profit called “Life Without Limbs.”
What if Nick or John Lewis or MLK or Jesus had said, “I can’t”?