I can’t or I don’t want to?

BY: Dietrich Kirk


“My dad always said, ‘99% of I can’t is I don’t want to!‘” said Bishop Jonathan Holston during his jurisdictional conference interviews.

As a side note, he quoted his dad three times in a 20 minute interview; clearly his dad was a significant influence on his life. I wrote this quote down immediately recognizing the truth in this statement. A Google search didn’t produce anyone else who may have said this over the years, so I will always give credit to his dad.

My children came to mind when I reflected on the soundness of this statement. “I can’t…tie my shoe, ride my bike, turn a cartwheel, do my homework, or ______!” Parents all across the country and around the world respond with a yes…you can!

But what about adults, who are less likely to speak the words, “I can’t”?  Does this statement apply to us, too? Are we more likely to say we don’t want to do something? As adults, our fear of failure kicks in and instead of saying we can’t do something…we simply don’t try to do it.

99% of I can’t is I don’t want to!

So as adults, it plays out more like this:

I can’t do it, because I don’t want to…

have to learn something new,

work hard,



be honest about my weakness, or

rock the boat.

Is the church being crippled by leadership that can’t do things or by leaders who don’t want to?


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