who we are

Allison Althoff
Allison Althoff
Natalie Lederhouse
Natalie Lederhouse

Free Newsletters

on TCW

« Close Up Look at a True "Soul Surfer" | Main | Square Dancing with a Dog »

May 24, 2011

Why Do We Work So Hard?

Though I’m normally excited and invigorated by my workouts, lately I’ve been feeling as though I’ve hit a wall. So last week at the gym, I decided to give my workout the old switcheroo and I signed up to take a hip hop class.

As the instructor, a young, energetic, African American girl with a big smile, began to teach us a hip hop dance, I couldn’t help but laugh at the body language of the rest of us I saw reflected in the mirror. We looked like a bunch of stiff wooden boards, and by the look on our faces, you’d think we were all trying to solve the square root of an isosceles triangle! Our instructor encouraged us to loosen up, show some attitude, and have fun. Doing so didn’t come naturally to us, and I started thinking about just how “seriously” we as an American culture take ourselves.

A recent study shows that Americans are officially among the hardest laborers in the developed world, and found that only 2/3 of workers take off all the time they’re allotted by their employers. Have we gotten so enthralled in a work mentality, that we’ve forgotten how to let loose?

Often, even in the way we greet one another, we define who we are by our profession, and we measure success by how much money we have. In my heart, I know this to be a fallacy; money is not a measure of success. However, sometimes my head gets stuck in this belief that the harder I work, the more secure my future is.

It’s a quasi-legalistic formula that I mindlessly follow: in order to have an ideal life, I must do x, y, and z, impress person A, and do it all at 110 percent. Because, well, if there was something I failed at, it must have been that I didn’t work at it as hard as I could have. And if there’s one thing that scares me, it’s failure.

This incessant pressure to live up to certain expectations is paralyzing at times. While for me I think it stems from constantly being in survival mode, somewhere along the line it morphed itself into a relentless perfectionism.

But I’m reminded by how God measures success: “Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man” (Proverbs 3:3–4, ESV).

So when you start to feel like you’re a prisoner in your mind, know that there is freedom when we move from head knowledge to heart knowledge, when we start walking a faith journey of the here and now, rather than the what-ifs of tomorrow. And of course, have fun and dance along the way.

What about you? Have you felt swallowed by self-imposed expectations? How have Christ’s promises brought you freedom?

Related Tags: Freedom, Perfectionism, Priorities, Rest, Work


I have often been affected by self-imposed expectations. I think our culture emphasizes hard work over God's love and grace. While we should work diligently in what God calls us to do, we should never let it define us or use it as a gauge for God's love for us.

Learning more about God's unconditional love for me has set me free from the pressures of wearing a mask and working hard to please God and man.

Thank you so much. I needed to hear this. I think we miss the point when we take ourselves too seriously. Loosen up! it is a helpful reminder.

I too have learned this the hard way. No matter how much work and effort we put in, we cannot do anything without God. Last year I failed an exam for work after diligently studying 2 hours a night for months in a row, all to find I did not pass. Second time around I tried to maintain the balance and make sure I did it with His help. His strength is perfected in our weakness.

Post a comment:

Verification (needed to reduce spam):


see more

books we're reading