It’s Gonna Cost You

It’s Gonna Cost You

“Dammit.” I thought as I shivered. “Why is this kid being so stubborn. Why won’t he just help himself?”

The dull light of my headlamp cast a weak light on our camp. A half moon shone above providing enough light for me to turn off my headlamp altogether. I was waiting. Waiting for this kid to do the simplest of tasks, something that could be done in less than ten seconds. Yet here he sat in the darkness, unwilling to help himself even in the most basic of ways.

This was his thing, to wait people out until they couldn’t take it anymore. Then they’d give up on him and he’d “win” by not having to do the thing he didn’t want to do. Yet every one of his “wins” reinforced his destructive habits, and reinforced why he was now in wilderness therapy.

I looked at the others in my staff team. In my mind I debated. We could let him slide yet again. It had been a long day, and I desperately wanted to crawl into my sleeping bag and fall asleep. Or, we could choose to do the hard thing, to dig in our heels and let this kid know, all the ways you manipulated others and got your way, well, that ain’t gonna fly out here.


Photo courtesy of SidPix at Creative Commons

Photo courtesy of SidPix at Creative Commons

But this was going to cost us something. It was going to cost sleep, a precious commodity in the wilderness. It was going to cost being cold, as the November night sank in around us. It was going to cost frustration as we waited for this kid to do the most basic of self care.

And then I had a thought, something almost whispered to me, “If you want to change people’s lives, it’s going to cost you something.”

It doesn’t happen for free. True positive change almost always costs something.

Think about it. All the stories of people hitting rock bottom before they turned their life around. Well, they had to hit rock bottom before they were smacked hard enough to realize they needed change. Think of a country that goes to war to fight a man bent on exterminating a race of people, and how many die in order to fight an unthinkable evil. We see it in nature too, how a caterpillar must endure the cocoon in order to become a butterfly. Or how living things must die to replace the nutrients and invigorate the soil so that life can continue.

Think about how Jesus, in order to save us, endured the agony of the cross. If it costs even God to create change in others, its probably going to cost you and me as well. Change doesn’t happen for free.

As I thought about this, chewed on it, and tried to digest it, I shifted my mindset. One moment I was pissed at the kid for depriving me of sleep. And then I thought, “this is why I’m here. This is why I do this. If I want to help people, it’s going to cost me. I don’t get to be comfortable too.”

And then I had a whole lot more compassion for this kid. I was able to stop looking at him like he’s a putz, and view him as a kid who needed help.

And then later, after a moving speech by another in my staff team, this kid got it. He finished his task in a few seconds. And then we were able to go to sleep. Later, he apologized. And then he thanked us.


I don’t know if this moment will really make a lasting difference for the kid. Realistically, it’ll probably take many more times like this to really break through to him for lasting change. But regardless, the moment made an impact on me.

If I want to help people, it’s going to cost me something.

Am I willing?

Photographer, filmmaker, journalist, adventurer. I'm somewhere, maybe Flagstaff, AZ.

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