The Lie of Try

“Try is a lie we tell others and ourselves to disguise our cowardice when we have no intention of fulfilling a commitment.” 

The word “try” used to be a regular part of my vocabulary, another way of saying “yes.” I’ll “try” to do this… I’ll “try” to work on that… You probably use it the same way.

But what if I told you that the word “try” doesn’t actually mean “yes” but rather something else altogether?

A few years ago my wife and I attended Love Reboot, a workshop for couples in crisis led by Jon Anderson. (Note – Love Reboot is unrelated to REBOOT Recovery.) At this workshop, I learned something new about the word “try” that hit me like a ton of bricks:

“Try is a lie we tell others and ourselves to disguise our cowardice when we have no intention of fulfilling a commitment.” 

Whew! I got angry at Jon when I first heard this. I had convinced myself that I was “trying” hard to heal, and so my first reaction was, “What the heck does he know about trying?” I got defensive, which is a common self-protection mechanism.

After internalizing this hard truth for a while, I came to a startling realization. Every time I told my wife that I would “try” to do something, here’s what I was actually saying to her: “I’m not really going to do it, but I need to say something to get you to leave me alone.” After examining the results of the things I said I would “try” to do, I discovered that I wasn’t brave enough or diligent enough to do the hard work to follow through on my commitments to change. 

This realization was pivotal for me. It helped me make wiser choices and stop the self-medicating behaviors that were getting in the way of my healing. 

Theodore Roosevelt delivered a famous speech in 1912 called “The Man in the Arena.” In this speech, Roosevelt said that “the credit belongs to the person who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; …who comes up short again and again, …who spends themself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement …if they fail, at least they fail while daring greatly.”

When it comes to our own healing, we need to make sure we are in the arena, striving valiantly, and not just telling ourselves and our loved ones that we’re “trying” to get there.

Don’t let the lie of “try” be an obstacle to your healing.


John Dale is a former REBOOT course leader, military veteran and first responder

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