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Reclaiming a 'Handle Hard Better' America

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty

Sometimes, revisiting timeless truths that are easy to forget is necessary. Sports remains one of the areas of life where excellence is required and rewarded. No one gives you a championship. You have to earn and reearn such accomplishments every year. The best coaches have a way of reminding teams of that painful reality. Their messages are just as important to all of us who face the challenges of living in this difficult age.


On occasion I am asked to preach at my home church, New Hope Lutheran Church, in Agoura Hills, CA. Last Sunday, I had prepared for my sermon. So, as I often do, I got up early to go to the gym to do my normal early morning exercises. As I have come to expect, you never know when God is going to change things you planned on saying. While using the cross trainer, I watched the ESPN channel. They were revisiting the impact of the motivational speech given by coach Kara Lawson to her Duke women’s basketball team in 2022.

Her talk came to be summed up in one phrase that took the internet by storm, ”Handle Hard Better.” Kara reminded her players that things don't get easier in life, but by stepping up to handle the next challenge, we just become better equipped to handle even tougher days in the future. As much as we would like to wait for an easier way, Lawson let her young, exceptional players at Duke know that no “easy bus” was coming!

Before becoming a coach at Duke, Kara Lawson was an All-American player at the University of Tennessee. She played 13 years in the WNBA, was an Olympic Champion, and served as an assistant coach with the Boston Celtics. She was named Duke University's sixth head women's basketball coach on July 11, 2020 and is now in her fourth year at the helm. Her team is a 7th seed in this year’s women’s NCAA tournament.


On TODAY with Hoda and Jenna, Kara reflected with Maria Shriver on the impact of her simple and inspiring words from that short pep talk she gave to her team in 2022. When her recorded message was shared online, Kara confessed, "The reaction blew me away!" Her “Handle Hard Better” message impacted people around the globe who were facing tough times.

Her words are relevant to one’s faith journey and to our response to the roadblocks and struggles in life that are sure to come our way. Kara added focus to my sermon message. In a passage from the 17th chapter of Luke’s Gospel, Jesus warned his disciples, “Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come….” It was his version of the “easy bus“ isn’t coming!

How does a good God allow suffering and tribulation? C.S. Lewis consistently talked about a Christian truth—“Pain is a megaphone in the hands of a loving God.” Pain and hard times remind us that we need to trust God in and through the challenges of life. When Jesus reminded them that there were going to be stumbling blocks, the disciples replied, “Lord, increase our faith!” We might add Kara’s words to our daily prayer, “Lord, help us handle hard better!”

Her message is not only important for believers; it’s important for us as Americans. Way too many Americans are waiting for the government to supply that ‘easy bus” as the answer to all their problems. Some complain about their overwhelming student loan debt and expect taxpayers to pick up the tab. Others complain about their high rent and expect government relief or rent controls. With fuel and food prices so high, no one wants their taxes raised. Tax those other people—the rich people who have it easy!


Hard times make or break you. Too many Americans have been trained by Democrats to be weak and to settle for being dependent on government entitlements. They need a healthy dose of “NO!” Government is never the answer to a fruitful and meaningful life. Hard times don’t make you a victim unless you let it. Hard times handled well can make you a proud survivor. Research on optimism demonstrates that true optimism comes from overcoming obstacles. The more obstacles you overcome, the more likely you are to be optimistic that you can handle the next one well. 

Ronald Reagan shared his secret to success as President of the United States, “I appealed to your best hopes, not your worst fears, to your confidence, rather than your doubts.” He went on to say, “I’m not taking your time this evening to ask you to trust me. Instead, I ask you to trust yourself. That is what America is all about… It’s the power of millions of people like you who will determine what will make America great again.”

As we approach selecting our next President in November, may we resist the temptation to elect anyone promising an “easy bus.” Instead, may we elect a President who has confidence that we have what it takes to “Handle Hard Better” and claim our own American Dream the old fashioned way—by earning it ourselves! 


Terry Paulson is PhD psychologist, author, and professional speaker on Earned Optimism, Making Change Work, Claiming Your American Dream, and Becoming a Conservative Values Voter. Contact him at

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