Those four words were emblazoned in boldfaced, capital letters across a t-shirt worn at a press conference by quarterback Lamar Jackson, the best player in the NFL right now. This press conference was two weeks ago. And I simply cannot get it out of my mind.
I think it’s because that statement succinctly encapsulates certain beliefs rooted deeply in me. And a statement that drives me like a whip to do what I need to do in life. And one which – in various forms – plays on repeat in my subconscious. In whispers, and in shouts.
And while I am convinced it helps me to stay on top of my responsibilities and to come through in life, I am also convinced it is really not healthy.
Nobody cares. Work harder.
Here’s why it makes so much sense:
- People let me down all of the time. They let you down all of the time. You’re old enough to know that everyone fails everyone else on a regular basis. And what does that produce? Disappointment and pain from asking for help and not really receiving it, and an incredible sense of vulnerability that only serves to reinforce our greatest fear: that we are all alone in this.
- People care about themselves and their lives way more than they care about others. Waaaaaaay more. Sure, they might be genuinely happy when something cool happens in our lives, but their interpretation of that “something cool” occurs through the lens of what has or has not happened in their own lives. Of course, they’d care much more if that “something cool” happened to them. Indeed, their mind may start minimizing what happened to us (since it didn’t happen to them), or remembering (or angling for) certain cool things in their own life as a way of elevating their own experience to align with ours. And sure, they might be genuinely sad when something bad happens to us, but we’re largely a comparative reference point for their own life – which by default they seek to protect, keep stable, and typically exalt.
- We are mostly responsible for what happens in our lives. Not entirely, but mostly. I realize we can’t manipulate everything to turn out for our good (God remains sovereign, and He should since he knows what’s truly best for our growth). But to me, it does seem like pretty much everything is up to us. No one is going to chart our course for us. No one has time to coach and cheerlead us through every demand and decision. I so wish someone did. I’ve been looking for a mentor for over a decade now, but it just doesn’t seem to materialize despite my efforts. And so it really does feel that most everything is up to me. And that maybe I just need to work harder.
But wow, as I write all of that out, I am incredibly aware that embracing a “Nobody cares. Work harder” is such a desolate mentality. Rachel and I have been talking about the word “desolate” recently, a word that is in the Bible and seems to have a lot of weight and significance to it.
To me, it conjures up scenes like a barren field, a tornado-ravaged plot of land, or a flower garden now scorched by the sun. But it also invokes non-agrarian images like a businessman who burns the candle at both ends and sacrifices other areas of life just to earn more and more money. Or a person who is always too busy to have a meaningful conversation with you. Or someone whose physical health seems great but whose emotional health is sorely lacking. Or someone who can’t reveal any weaknesses or vulnerabilities, and who always has to seem like they have it all together. Or someone who is always trying too hard, and can’t just be present and still and content.
That is desolate.
Man, I don’t want to be any of those kinds of people. I want to be the opposite of “desolate.” And so does Rachel. This is actually a stated priority for us and our family.
And so that leaves little room for a “Nobody cares. Work harder” mentality. Yes, it’s helpful to have a self-empowering and empowering slogan to help you overcome adversity and accomplish what you want to accomplish. But there has to be more to life. To a full, vibrant, robust, thriving life. A John 10:10 life. And that’s what I’m after.
I know that living with a chip on my shoulder won’t truly satisfy. I know that working harder and harder – even to accomplish my wildest dreams – won’t really satisfy. And I know that being tightly-wound and always “on” – hustling and grinding and life-hacking my way through it all – won’t ultimately satisfy.
Each of the three points I enumerated above have healthier counterpoints.
- Yes, people may let me down all of the time. But even if that persuades me to try to do everything myself, I still need help. I do. That’s the reality. And God is still real, still there, and still always available to give me what I need: encouragement, unique insights and solutions, companionship, hope.
- Yes, people don’t really care about me more than they care about themselves. But God does. I mean, He created us because He is love and wanted to demonstrate His love to someone else. My decades of walking with Him have proven this time and time again: He cares deeply and incessantly about me. And that gives me so much comfort.
- Yes, a lot of life is up to us. But if I had a choice, I’d love some meaningful assistance. In all areas! If I had a choice, I wouldn’t want to go after my dreams alone. I want help. And even if I don’t think I need it right now, I will at some point. Doing everything alone for your entire life is unsustainable, and will kill you. It will. I take so much encouragement from remembering God loves to work on behalf of those who love Him. In fact, His eyes “range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him.” I have experienced that numerous times, and just remembering those times causes so much peace and assurance to wash over me.
It actually demonstrates a lack of maturity when you embrace the “Nobody cares. Work harder” mentality. It’s full of piss and vinegar – and looks great on a t-shirt – but I am sure that it leads to a desolate life. And that’s the opposite of what God wants for you.
I’m not going to lie: I clearly still struggle with rejecting the beliefs that undergird it. But I know how I want to think, and I know what I want to believe. And that’s critical for living the kind of life I want to live.
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