Every so often I feel the ability to lay down the facade that I’ve got things figured out and just be honest. With you—the reader. And with myself. This is one of those times.
Excluding the emotional complexities I’m known to exhibit (times of low self-awareness that is), which I’m working on, I’m a pretty simple guy. Left to my own devices, I’d probably be pretty content with who I am. I’m not Instagram “famous,” nor do I lead some mega youth ministry. And I’d probably choose to swing by Raising Cane’s Chicken over a fancy night out. And I’m cool with that. Really.
But alas, like you, I live in this world complete with all the external pressures manifesting themselves as internal expectations. And so I do what you probably do too: perform, allowing personal worth to be determined by achievement (or lack thereof). And it’s exhausting for both myself and those around me.
I want to write to make a difference in someone’s life, not to seem important. Or lead a thriving ministry because I want people to encounter God, not so I can proudly spew some arbitrary number that appeases the counting crowd. I want to lead for all the right reasons. Not so I can feel better about myself because then it’s just about me.
So here and now, I publicly confess my co-dependency. It’s time to humble myself and repent of my need to make everything about me and embrace the lesson learned from our church custodian.
To protect her privacy, I’ll use the name Stacy. Before joining our team, Stacy worked for a large hotel. She took great pride in her work, and when she accepted a side contract with our church, she brought with her a high level of expertise and care. I always know the nights she’s worked: a fresh aroma fills the building, and the little things have not been overlooked. She even puffs the tissues to look like a flower on top of the box—just like you’ve seen at hotels.
Then, probably during one of my many meanderings to the church kitchen for a cookie, I noticed something that inspired this article: by the sink, folded ever so carefully in the shape of flowers, were the cloth wash rags. In an area hardly given much notice, with items easily discarded as gross, Stacy left her mark. There would be no “brownie points” or bonus pay. Her art would not be shared on social media with a chance to go viral. And when the hospitality team arrived on Sunday to wash the coffee pots her work would disappear. In short, in an often unnoticed and under-appreciated role, Stacy did what so many of us struggle to do: work regardless of recognition.
So here’s how I’m going to detach my worth from my work and attack my own hypocrisy:
1. Read the Bible in one year.
I need to make sure I’m not just familiar with the Scriptures, or an expert on its themes, but immersed daily in the full context of God’s Word and not only satisfied with encouraging platitudes.
2. Get help with my blind spots.
It’s like a riddle: when you feel you have it, you’ve lost it: self-awareness. (It’s as ridiculous as people bragging about their humility.) So I’m getting over myself and allowing the right people to call me out on my junk. Plus I’ll commit to self-study.
3. Talk less.
If it’s actually not about me, then I don’t have to interject my opinion or ideas every time. I have to be less so my teammates can be more. Simon Sinek says:
“Leaders don’t look for recognition from others. Leaders look for others to recognize.”
They prioritize the success of others ahead of their own.
4. Give myself grace.
Honestly, I know I have to give myself some time to work this out. Part of the pressure I feel is to identify, address and respond immediately to my shortcoming. However, if I try to merge an instant gratification mindset with growth-mindset, I’ll substitute real change for a temporary facade.
I’m guessing if you’ve read this far something from my experience is relatable. No need to feel guilty. Leadership is hard. Leading others well is hard. It’s easy to feel weak. To be weak. However, it’s in this moment we actually inch toward our capacity: for when we are at our weakest that is when Christ is truly free to work through us.
I’m glad I spotted those towels that night. She taught me a lesson in humility: a reminder that authentic influence is often separated from recognition. And that I don’t need that recognition to know what I do matters. It’s a call to live like Jesus as described by Bob Goff, “an ordinary guy who was utterly amazing. He helped people. He figured out what they needed and tried to point them toward that.” Let’s go do likewise (whether anyone recognizes our efforts or not).