Caveat: This post is somewhat unorthodox in that it is actually a repost of something that I posted for my guild today on our forums. We have had, arguably, two of our best nights working on heroic Rag – yet everyone’s morale (including mine) seems to be tanked. Because of that, I spent a lot of time last night thinking. And, ultimately, this is what came out of those thoughts. The reason that I’ve reposted it here, is because I am somewhat fascinated with the fact that of everything else – this is where my brain made a connection. And I think the topic and similarities in and of themselves are extremely interesting. As such, I thought it was something that a lot of my readers would enjoy and would spark a fair bit of conversation, which in turn I think would be equally as fascinating. I am very much looking forward to everyone’s thoughts. However, since standing alone it may read a little strangely, I thought that adding context was important.
I am not an overly religious person, but at some point in my education I was tasked with reading a play called J.B.. It is exceptionally good, if you are interested in it, and I believe it even won a Pulitzer prize. Anyhow, the play is essentially a modern day version of The Book of Job, which consequently I was also tasked with reading.
Right about now, you are probably wondering why the fuck I am bringing this up, and exactly what does it have to do with raiding. Well, I’ll get there. Eventually.
The Book of Job
As I said above, I’m not really a very religious person, but the story of Job really resonated with me and is something that has provoked many of my thoughts and outlooks. The Beru’s notes (I’m trademarking that shit as soon as I’m done typing this…) version of the story goes something like this (please forgive me any missteps that I may have in my retelling of the story, and note that I’m not going to go into much of the theological debate surrounding the story, as I’m hardly qualified to do so):
Job is an incredibly pious man. Satan comes to God and theorizes that the only reason that Job is as devout as he is, is because God has afforded him many luxuries in life and Job has never really known hardship. Satan and God have a debate about it, and eventually Satan asks God if he can prove his point by testing Job. God agrees to permit it. Over time Satan, with God’s blessing, takes away everything that Job had and cared about – his family, his livelihood, his home. Job’s wife pleaded with Job to forsake a God who could be so cruel, and yet Job was unmoving in his beliefs and devotion.
Not to be undone, Satan asks God permission to smite Job’s health as well. God agrees, stating only that Satan may not kill Job. Job is afflicted with horrible boils, and yet still will not denounce God. Eventually Job sits alone, suffering. In time he is visited by three friends (there is much theological debate over what these three represent, but I’ll let someone else get into that). After much talk, the three friends sit in silence with Job for seven days, seeing that he is suffering. In all this time, Job never resents God. He never rebukes God. But he does start to wonder how he can speak to God, so that he might better understand God’s intent.
In time Job breaks the silence – yet still does not curse God. Rather he curses the day that he was born – to which God appears to him and finally speaks (again, theological interpretation left to someone more qualified). God tells Job that he is disappointed in him, and that Job does not understand creation. Job is never made aware that God’s conversations with Satan are the source of his overwhelming grief. However, in the end Job is humbled by God and repents.
Don’t worry too much about Job – Having proven Satan wrong, God restores Job. Giving him back his health, a new family and more wealth than he had known before. Job lived a long, happy life until his death, living to see the fourth generation of his family and dying at the ripe old age of 140 or so.
In short – you know that saying “God won’t give us more than we can handle”? I’ve often wondered if the book of Job is where it spawned from.
Job and Raiding
Now, I’m sure this next statement is debatable, and I’m no theologian, however I tend to believe that it wasn’t necessarily God that restored Job, but rather it was Job’s faith in God that did. His faith that God wouldn’t dump more shit on him than he could handle. His faith that he was a part of an unknown plan, and that it wasn’t his place to question that. His blind hope that in the end everything was going to play out as it was intended. And, honestly, there is a part of me that thinks in addition to faith, Job represent hope. I know this may be somewhat far fetched, but in my mind, in my interpretation, Job [i]is[/i] hope. Now, I’m not going to sermon – as I said above, I’m not an overly religious person. But I do think it’s important to recognize God’s role in relation to Job.
This is getting a little heavy, let’s change gears here a little bit, shall we?
Every time that I encounter a challenge in my life that I feel overwhelms me, I’m reminded of J.B. and subsequently Job. And invariably that makes me stop and think. Ultimately I never ask myself why I’m being presented with these particular challenges, but rather I hope that I can find the strength to survive them. But even more than that, I question if I am able to survive them without losing part of who I am and what I believe in the process. In essence I don’t want to become a cold and jaded person. I want to hold on to hope, because it’s a valuable commodity that once it’s lost can never be replaced. In the vernacular, I try to believe that what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger and all that jazz.
Let’s loop this back around to raiding shall we?
Raiding is all about meeting and overcoming challenges. I also think that oftentimes it is when people are pushed (tested) the hardest, that we start to see the worst that people have to offer. Part of what makes challenging encounters so challenging isn’t necessarily the encounter in and of itself, but rather navigating through the way many different ways that diverse personalities behave when faced with something that seems insurmountable. When you hear “X encounter is a guild killer” – no it’s not. It’s true that it’s the stress that the encounter placed on the guild was a contributing factor, but when push comes to shove, it was the way in which the team dealt with that stress (or didn’t, as it may be) that killed the guild.
Stress and tension often makes people behave in ways that they may not otherwise behave. This is true in any aspect of life.
In the end though, it’s how we channel these tensions and stresses that define us. As people, and as a guild. There is nothing wrong with acknowledging that you are frustrated. In fact, I think that it’s a healthy thing to do. But it’s a very fine line to walk, because it’s very easy to cross over that line and let your stresses and tensions become unproductive. If this happens often enough, you then find yourself in a position that you are causing just as much harm to the raid (if not more) as things that are frustrating you.
What does not kill us makes us stronger.
Let’s go back to Job now. I’m sure I will offend at lest one person in this analogy, and for that I sincerely apologize, but please bear with me – I truly mean no disrespect.
In a raid setting, a guild (or raid team) falls into the shoes of Job. And, for purposes of analogy, a boss or zone, are the challenges that Satan has thrown at you. And, I suppose, that would put Blizzard (or whatever developer) into the role of God. While the underlying tenants of the reason Job is given challenges are not necessarily the same for a raid, I do think that there are some similarities to be seen between how a raid chooses to overcome challenges and how Job suffered his challenges.
Let’s explore that a little bit.
When things get hard, like the 375th pull of Heroic Rag for example, what will define us as a team is how we handle our disappointments and struggles. Do we snipe at each other and work against each other in doing so or do we look at how far we’ve come despite all of the challenges put in front of us? Do we ridicule people weaker than we are when they are struggling or do we offer out a hand to help pick them up and encourage them to keep trying? Do we forsake hope and wallow only in what we haven’t accomplished or do we look at what we have accomplished and keep our hearts light as we walk down a difficult road? In thinking about that, ask yourself what would have happened to Job if he hadn’t held steadfast to his beliefs. What if he had listened to his wife? What if he had given up when his family was ripped from him? What if he hadn’t remained strong in his convictions?
I know that I can’t answer those questions, and I’m not going to try. But what I can tell you is that one of the reasons that J.B. and Job stuck with me almost two decades later is because their resolve stayed with me. Almost two decades after learning of Job’s (and J.B.’S) struggles, when things get hard I can still draw on the strength that they showed. I still try (and often fail) to be the person that Job was when faced with insurmountable challenges. Why? Because when push comes to shove, I don’t want to know what happens if Job fails the test. I want to believe that hard work, patience and faith that everything will fall into place are good values. I want to believe that even through the most challenging times resolve and dedication will persevere. I want to believe that no matter how seemingly insurmountable the challenge placed in front of me is, I can and will overcome it.
Last night I was told that my flaw was that I tried too hard. That I put in too much of my energy to make things happen. That I couldn’t single handedly make people want to be better.
But the truth is that I don’t know how to do anything less.
This expansion has tried every guild that has pushed through it, and no one has been unscathed. At the end of the day, I don’t really think a fancy Firelord, Dragonslayer or Light of Dawn title is the true reward for crossing the finish line. I think the knowledge of the resolve of the people that made it that far and the fact that they overcame such adversity to get there is far more rewarding. The fact that they persevered and didn’t let go of their resolve says a lot more about them than any title ever could.
The past few weeks things have been hard, last night I sat up well past my bedtime with tears of frustration trying to figure out if I was strong enough to keep doing this, and in doing so I took the time to reflect back. I took the time to think about Job. And what I came out with was a reminder that what doesn’t kill you, will make you stronger. I came out with the reminder that it’s extraordinarily hard to stick to your beliefs and foundations when things get hard, but that you will be a stronger person if you do.
It is my hope that this doesn’t kill me. It is my hope that it doesn’t kill my ideals, beliefs and faith in all of you. It is my hope that I don’t let other people bring me down and make me forget the foundations of what make me strong. But most of all it is my hope that others will read this and will also take a minute to think, and that perhaps they, too, will come out with a different perspective as a result, and that will make us all stronger.