Remembering ‘Grace’ in a ‘Grind’ Culture
*Originally published February 28, 2019*
The other day I came across a Reading Plan in my Bible app that really caught my eye called “Grace Over Grind“. This specific plan is targeted toward business owners, entrepreneurs, and anyone who is just working on something bigger than themselves. As I was reading over the devotional plan, I was greeted with very familiar phrases that I hear among my peers:
“Rise and Grind”…..”Team ‘No Sleep'”….” Good things come to those who grind” and the rest.
I’ve gotten so used to hearing or seeing these mantras on a daily basis that it never really occurred to me that any of these phrases could be seen as negative. Honestly, none of these phrases are rooted with negative intent and most people who use those phrases are working on something that will bring good for themselves and others.
Being entrepreneurial or wanting success is in no way a bad thing, but this devotional really started making me think about how we go about pursuing that success. Even the very first day of the devotional tells us: “The cost of a hustle and grind mindset (even if you pray first or say you’re doing it for Jesus) is simply too great for the Kingdom entrepreneurs. There is a supernatural realm that too many Christian business owners are failing to tap into because they are too busy grinding, running fast and furious to accomplish as much as possible and as quickly as possible.”
On the other side, we also have people who emphasize the importance of being balanced, and not overworking ourselves which seems to directly contradict the ‘grind’ culture. Could it be that for a lot of us, our focus isn’t on the right things? More importantly, how do we meet that middle ground of reaching our goals without necessarily losing our humanity, and (for Christians) the importance that Grace holds in our lives?
Young People and the Ongoing Race to Success
In order to understand this dilemma between Grace and Success, we need to have a basic understanding of what has young people chasing success and fulfillment so fiercely. I’ve found that there are a lot of polar views when it comes to society’s impression of the millennial generation. One group will say we’re lazy, entitled, and naive crybabies. That we’re snowflakes that don’t want to wait for the normal process of success because we’re impatient. Another group will say we’re hard-working, innovative, adventurous beings who just don’t want to settle. We don’t want to stick with the status quo and we understand that change is essential for any type of growth (even if it means job hopping, starting your own business, etc). So really, it just depends on who you’re talking to. But what we can all agree on, is that millennials resist being told to ‘settle’.
More and more young people are realizing that if they want to make a change in their lives, they can very well do so. They understand that, while a college degree is valuable, it isn’t necessarily going to be their golden ticket to success as it had been in the past. Millennials have acquired a sort of boldness that, while Baby Boomers may generally hate, more workplaces are starting to become attracted to. A lot of them have figured out that they don’t want to be in the same position as their predecessors for (x) amount of years and then hopefully climb the ladder and pray they don’t fall victim to a company reorganization, layoffs, etc before they can reach the position they want.
These days, I’m seeing more and more friends and colleagues starting their own businesses, creating blogs, podcasts, life groups, etc. and it’s truly a wonderful thing to see. What could be negative about that? The answer is usually rooted in someone’s ‘Why’. Best-selling author Simon Sinek (Start With Why) describes the ‘Why’ as the purpose, cause or belief that drives us. Just as it sounds, it is the reason we do what we do. Ultimately, having a strong ‘Why’ (or purpose) for doing something can be a key determining factor of whether or not you will succeed. So the real question to ask is if all of these ambitious people are rooted in sincere ‘Whys’, or if there are more superficial reasons as to why so many young people want to reach success at such an early age.
When I say ‘superficial’, I don’t necessarily mean in the sense of wanting recognition or glory, I mean in the sense that a ‘superficial Why’ is not going to allow you to reach the goals you have set out for yourself. Examples of a Superficial Why could stem from what we see on social media. I like to think of social media as the ESPN highlights of people’s lives. What we’re seeing is whatever the user allows us to see; meaning that we could be so caught up in all of the great things that person may have going on in their life, but we likely won’t have any knowledge of the negatives. In the times that the user does share something negative, it is usually a testimonial of how they overcame that obstacle. Logically speaking, we know that not everything we see on someone’s social media page is their whole life. However, it is still very easy for us to get so caught up in all of the ‘great things' we see other people doing, what everyone else is achieving, the places they’re going, the opportunities they’ve gained access to, that we end up comparing our worst to their best. While this is a natural (and fairly common) occurrence, it is still not a good Why. When our Why is rooted in a superficial reason, the ‘How’ and ‘What’ seem monumental.
While the Rise & Grind culture has brought about a lot of positives, it also has its downside. With this sub-culture of go-getters and hard workers, there is also a sub-culture that resists this mentality, those who call more for balance and personal fulfillment. For this group, people of the Rise & Grind culture can come off as pretentious or even condescending with what they are doing. For them, they might not have any interest in business development or financial wealth. Can we call these people ‘wrong’, ‘lazy’, or ‘lacking’? Not necessarily. It goes back to the idea of the Why. If someone is going into business for themselves because it is what they want and they truly believe it is what God wants them to pursue then that’s great. But when we try to take someone else’s dream and repackage it as our own, we will find ourselves frustrated and depressed with our lack of results.
And, realistically speaking, the economy isn’t meant to be filled with entrepreneurs and business owners. Everyone can’t be a producer because then there’s no one to be a consumer. So even if you are a go-getter, move-maker, no-sleeper, (whatever you want to call it), it doesn’t necessarily give you the right to come down on people who don’t categorize themselves as such. Don’t chastise people for not having the same vision as you.
Relying on His Strength, Not our Own
For Christians, this may be one of the toughest internal struggles we could face when it comes to running a business or any passion projects we may have. It’s something that I’m still working to improve in my own life, and I’m sure others are trying to find that middle ground too.
“Relying on your own strength” is a common phrase in the Christian community, but a lot of us might not completely grasp what that means. It is said that when we ‘rely on our own strength’, we forfeit the strength of God. In other words, we work and toil without rest thinking that it will get us what we want. While it is important for us to work for what we want, we also have to remember that we cannot (and will not) be in complete control of what happens to us or our business ventures. However, in this Grind culture, it is very easy to think that we are. This is truer when we surround ourselves with phrases like “Team no sleep! I’m responsible for my own destiny! Good things come to those who grind! Hustle hard!”
If you’re not a stranger to hard work, that’s great. It is important to understand that success in your business is going to take up your time, and it is going to take time for things to come to fruition, and it is going to take some focused work. But this mentality is dangerous because it makes it that much easier to inadvertently leave God out of the equation. When we find ourselves stressed, worn out, and dejected, a lot of times it is because we have been relying on our own strength for everything rather than abiding by (or keeping company) with God. By allowing ourselves to work relying on His strength, we are ultimately letting the perfection of His strength overcome our weaknesses.
The strength reliance factor is such a slippery slope because most of the time we don’t even realize we’re doing it. The devotional mentioned basically lists a few examples of what it looks like when someone isn’t working by grace:
Financial Anxiety – You may have heard the phrase “Money is the root of all evil!” This is a common misquote of Timothy 6:10; the phrase is actually “The love of money is the root of all evil”. There is nothing wrong with wanting affluence; God does want us to live abundant lives. However, the problem occurs when you are consumed with the chase for money so much that you are not allowing anything else (including God) in. This would include being in constant distress over the money (or lack thereof) being produced in your business.
Prayer – For me, this is such a huge factor. Sometimes when we get consumed with what we need to do to move our endeavors forward we miss this very vital component to our everyday life. My prayers became very routine: once in the morning, once at night; typically the same content over and over again, and not a genuine connection. Then there would be days that I forgot to pray at all!
Lack of Sleep – We might stress ourselves out to the point that we’re not getting enough sleep; conversely, we could be so excited about what we’re doing that we just can’t sleep. Or we could be overworking ourselves because we don’t want to sacrifice any of our precious time that could be utilized to grow. The person behind the devotional didn’t specify why this is a bad thing, but from a health perspective, I can see how this can be a concern.
Stuck – The creator of the devotional describes this as ‘Analysis Paralysis’; this is the concept of being so overwhelmed that you literally are unable to move your business forward due to stress and anxiety. I hated this idea before but I had to face that it is the truth: when we overanalyze and overthink every move we make, it displays that we lack trust in God to steer us in the right direction.
Lack of Boundaries – Boundaries are extremely important, but when we are super focused on our goals, we may apply the principle of boundaries to the wrong things. People who lack boundaries will not put a cap on their availability when it comes to their business. They fear that if they miss this one phone call if they can’t make one certain appointment if they don’t keep their calendar open, it will lead to a catastrophe in their business. Yes, availability is important but there has to be a line drawn somewhere.
The point is if you are constantly irritated, worn out, stressed, tired, etc. then it may be time to reevaluate how you’re going about your business. Being in this state of mind means that you lack peace. Not setting up boundaries, constantly feeling stuck, and not keeping company with God all point to the same conclusion: I lack trust. As a Christian, it was really hard for me to admit this because I was ashamed. All of the things I’ve experienced was a reflection of my lack of trust that God will continue to make a way for me to flourish. I never had to speak that out loud. I never needed to because my actions were a true reflection of how I felt.
But I Don’t Want to Be Complacent!
We always hear that we should never be complacent when it comes to our dreams and goals. And I believe that to be very true. But in an attempt to avoid complacency, this feeling that we are never doing enough, we end up doing the opposite: working ourselves to the ground.
The point of relying on God’s strength isn’t for us to just sit around and do nothing. We are definitely still encouraged to work for what we want. Relying on His strength isn’t about complacency, it’s about doing the work while rooted in the right reasoning. We have to reach the understanding that it isn’t about greed, keeping up with our peers, or any of the superficial Whys we come across. I’m not making light of what it takes to create a successful business; there is definitely a lot of hard work involved. But the question isn’t about whether we’re working hard enough, but whether we are working enough with faith and trust.
I’m really glad that I found this devotional because it does have me thinking about how I go about my passions and what mindset I have when I do so. I hope others will find value in it as well.
While the definition of success is subjective for each person, I always like to reference a quote that I believe sums it up perfectly:
Success is…knowing your purpose in life, growing to reach your maximum potential, and sowing seeds that benefit others. John C. Maxwell