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Growth Enemy: Trying to be Worthy

“You’d better hustle!”  SONY DSC

This is the kind of warning that I remember getting from coaches.  Hustle is kind of a weird word.  It’s much more frantic than hurry and has the idea tied to it of time running out and only getting one chance.

I’ve been reading (let me know if you get tired of this phrase) Brene’ Brown’s book, “The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are” and was struck when she wrote that many of us “Hustle for Worthiness.” I had to pause when I read this because it really captured the essence behind people-pleasing.  I personally tend to be in the people-pleasing camp and have spent way too much of my energy roused on the hustle.

I remember a really strange conversation I had about 19 years ago with a burnt out and bitter pastor who was trying to finish up his last couple years before retiring.  I had just started being a pastor a couple of months before in a church he used to pastor.  He wasn’t a pleasant guy to be around.  He came up to me at an event and said, “Chuck, people really seem to like you.”  I wasn’t sure what to say and don’t remember my response.  He then said, “You aren’t a good pastor if everyone likes you.”   He then walked away.

I wasn’t sure how to respond.  I really wanted to be a good pastor and just didn’t know what to do with his jab of a comment.  Was I supposed to offend people to make myself a better pastor?  Did approval mean that I was selling out? To this day I don’t know if he was trying to have some sort of ‘Yoda moment’ with me or was trying to hurt my feelings.

What I do know is that there is always a tension when we talk about people-pleasing, because on first appearance the only other option is hurting people.  The script is, “If I’m happy and living authentically, then other people won’t be happy.”

What if instead, we focused on worthiness being something innate, that we are born with, rather than something earned?

People-pleasing and hustling for worthiness is a growth enemy.  We end up using the resources, time, and energy all to convince other people of our worth rather than to live powerful effective lives in our worth.

I’ve seen kids act like chameleons and adapt every way possible to earn their parent’s attention and favor.  I’ve watched parents cower and beg before their kids seeking their approval.  It’s heartbreaking to watch because what the child and parent both want can’t be earned, awarded, or bestowed.  It is accepted from God, not another person.

Crazy things happen when we hustle for worthiness. We end up becoming very vulnerable to negative people and negative things.

How do we communicate worth to our kids?

  1. Separate worth from accomplishments.  Too many of us only praise and gush over accomplishments and endearing behavior.  Take time to let your child know their worth aside from their performance.
  2. Put people-pleasing into context.  Manners, respect, and honor are things that we give others because they are worthy.  We can give them because we are worthy.  I like the motto from The Ritz-Carlton Hotel which says, “We are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen.”  Worthiness gives worthiness.
  3. We strive, grow, and stretch ourselves because we are stewards of our value, not to become worthy.  Some people accept their value and just kind of waste the impact that value can bring.  Our call biblically is to invest our value.


How have you seen people-pleasing and hustling for worth impact your life?  How has that impacted how you parent?

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