Less Striving, More Abiding. It’s Okay Not to be the Best

strive – verb
– to exert oneself vigorously; try hard
– to make strenuous efforts toward any goal:

I’m a striver, or a capital-A “Achiever” as Tony Ferretti and I describe this personality trait in our book The Love Fight. Always have been. Probably always will be. It seems I’ve got to be doing things, making progress, achieving goals, striving for “success.”

Striving is the American way. In business we try to go from good to great, make continuous quality improvement, and hit zero defects. In our personal lives we want nicer houses, bigger bank accounts, leaner bodies and more recognition. The omnipresent media exhort us to “be the best.” No one wants to be less than the best.

It gets old after a while doesn’t it? Perhaps it takes years or decades of striving before you’re ready to relax a little. It has for me. Truth is, you don’t have to be the best. You don’t even have to be better. Forget better, you don’t even have to be “good.”  Life isn’t a competition. You can’t “win” it by striving.

Back in medical school, when my friends and I were stressed about our grades, someone would toss out this reassuring riddle:
Question – “What to they call the guy who graduates last in his class from the worst medical school in America?”
Answer – “Doctor!
Forget the grade, just keep going. And we did. There’s a lot to be said for patient persistence, for showing up, for just keeping going.

Of course accomplishments are good things; using them as a measure of our lives or our value as people is where we go wrong. And many of us do. I have, and I probably won’t be able to stop completely, but the gospel message of God’s grace is sinking in. Only one thing really matters, being reconciled to God.  All true success in life will flow from that.

We get that message every week at my church.  I used to think maybe it was a little too repetitious, but now I get it.  I need the repetition.  The pastor has that figured out.  His current sermon series is titled “Abide” and it’s got me thinking.

abide – verb
– to remain; continue; stay
– to continue in a particular condition, attitude, relationship, etc.

Abiding.  Seems like as good of an idea today as it did back in school.  The preacher is talking about abiding in Jesus, but I could do with a lot more abiding in everything else too. Fortunately the one leads to the other. So, less striving, more abiding is my plan. And if you know me, you know that will take the Holy Spirit’s intervention.  May it be so.


For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.  What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?
Matthew 16:25-26


PS: I can’t think about abiding without thinking of the Dude:

Maybe I should watch this movie again.


  1. Appreciate you sharing. Years ago my mom would say “Don’t wait. The time will never be just right” 🙂