Permission to Stop Trying So Hard and Be Satisfied with a “Non-Viral” Life

July 14, 2014 | 22 comments

She decides on a Tuesday morning. “Mom, I want to cut my hair short. I want to donate it.”

Her voice is coming from the back seat, as we drive to the hairdresser in town. She sounds resolute.

I’ve had this in mind all summer,” she says, “but I haven’t told you. But today I want to cut my hair and donate it. Because it would mean a lot to me if I lost my hair and someone donated theirs to me.”

She tells me that it’s her way of being an answer to someone else’s prayer. She has just enough to give: her hair cascades far past her shoulders.

But what she doesn’t tell me is that she believes, deep down, that her new haircut will be ugly. She is almost certain that she’ll dislike it.

But inside her small self, she knows the truth about life —

if you never risk the scary thing to do the right thing, you’ll miss chances to be a part of the God Things.

So she has mustered up the nerve to have it cut short anyway.

She doesn’t tell me — until after the 10 inches have been snipped, banded and bagged — that she assumed the ugly-worst, but stepped forward despite the anticipated result.

In the end, she tells me, she actually does love her new haircut. (And I do, too.) But that wasn’t the point.

That was never the point.

The truth is —

Doing the right thing isn’t always the beautiful thing, and it might not be the popular thing. But if we set out in our life, only to be liked or applauded in this life, we will compromise anything, and thus, achieve nothing.


Sometimes, when I sit at these computer keys to type out a blog post for you, I think too long about whether you’re going to like it. I’ve wonder if you’ll think it will be:

Ugly. Boring. Lacking substance.

I think longer than I should about whether you’ll approve, despite the fact that God has set me to these keys with a particular mission — regardless of the numbers of people who will ever read it.

You’ve been here long enough to know How I long struggled with desiring the approval of people, sometimes more than the approval of God. I wrote 55,000 words to help myself and anyone else who wants to get free from the clutches of the love idol.

Most days, I know the truth about who I am. I believe in the depths of me what it means to be PreApproved. But some days? I have to preach from the self pulpit. I have to do a lot of what Brennan Manning called “steady self-confrontation.” (Go read the middle of Love Idol to find out just how often we might have to do that. The cure is the process.)

Here’s the deal: Our hearts are hardwired for love, but we can easily go looking for it in all the wrong places. And our desire for approval can set us off on the road toward higher rankings and more likes. If you’ve looked out across your Facebook feed and realize that you didn’t get invited to the “cool kids table,” you know what I’m talking about.

The world is full of rankings, reports and resume lines that make you forget about God — report cards that let you know whether you made the grade in this great big world.

But we’re tired of it. We’re tired of the approval ratings, and the Photoshopped expectations.

We are already loved, approved, seen and known.

And He is making something beautiful out of your one life…

So we’ve got to do the right thing, the God Thing — cut the hair, write the words, pray the prayer, paint the picture, write the book — even if we fear the world will think it’s ugly.

We’ve got to give what we’ve got, in order to be the answer to one person’s prayer.

Did you know that it takes 20 to 30 hair donations to make one wig? Each donation has value.

Anna’s hair was just enough, Just. Enough.

Just long enough to offer something. Anna gave what she had.

And that’s what we can do. We can give what we have. We can give our voice, our story, our love.

Even our hair.


What you do may never, ever go viral.

I’ve been blogging for seven years this July, but never had a post go viral.

That doesn’t mean this isn’t worth it. That doesn’t mean that any of us should stop. Our worth isn’t measured by virality or Facebook shares. It is measured by a God who declares us incalculably worthwhile, and immeasurably loved. He is inviting us to a life of loving Him, serving Him, enjoying Him forever.

Ann Voskamp wisely wrote it like this last week:

“The size of your ministry isn’t proof of the success of your ministry. The very Son of God had a ministry to 12. And even one of them abandoned HimForget the numbers in your work. Focus on the net value of  your work. The internet age may try to sell you something different, but don’t ever forget that viral is closely associated with sickness — and focusing on numbers can make you nauseated.” 

Look. We’ve got to know we’re preapproved — already approved. We have nothing to prove. We’ve got to know if when we write non-viral blog posts, when we show up at Bible study unable to find Zephaniah or Zechariah, when we feel like we’re the only one in the room who doesn’t know the right answers. When we didn’t get invited. When we’re scared to pray out loud. And when we represent the largest jean size in the room.

We’ve got to know we’re already approved, that we have nothing to prove, when we wear our swimsuits in public.

And? When we try CrossFit with friends and discover that parts of our bodies are insanely underused. Behold —


Being preapproved isn’t an excuse to be a slacker. It’s not a clever phrase that gets us out of doing our best. God calls us to excellence. He wants us to take care of our bodies and give our best in our callings. But telling ourselves we are “PreApproved” is a way to retrain our hearts, which have long believed the lie that our worth is tied to our good performances.

We’ve got to change our words to change our hearts. And when we change our hearts, we change our world.


When we know who we really are — approved and loved by Christ — we are no longer held back. We are free. Because we know we are His.

Not because we are viral. Or invited. Or magazine-cover-beautiful. Or applauded at the annual meeting.

But because we are His.

His banner over you doesn’t say, “Prove yourself” or “Try Harder” or “Go Viral.”

His banner over you isn’t a sales report, or an Amazon ranking, or a Facebook share.

His banner over you is simply this —


You don’t have to earn anyone’s love anymore. Believe this: That you are already God’s beloved.

The Movement of the #PreApproved Sisterhood

To find our printables and more information about what it means to be PreApproved, click here.

PreApproved Necklace

Wear the truth about your PreApproved status in Christ over your heart. These custom-designed necklaces — inspired by Love Idol — are on sale this month for $18 (reguarly $24). Head over to Krafty Kash Designs to order yours.

by | July 14, 2014 | 22 comments


  1. Holly Solomon Barrett

    Love love love this post, Jennifer! And love the heart of your sweet girl. How brave she is to do something that she fears. You have taught her well, my friend.

    • dukeslee

      I feel like it’s often the other way around … how the child teaches the mother. Thanks, Holly.

  2. Ann Kroeker

    That photo of you in the hallway is hilarious! I love YOU being YOU! And the calling from God to cut her hair? That’s, well, priceless.

  3. Ann Kroeker

    By the way, have you sent a copy of Love Idol to Colbie? I think you should. She gets the “preapproved” message.

    • dukeslee

      Ooo. Good idea. Thanks, Ann.

  4. Sarah

    I’m so glad you choose to write. Blessed once again by your words here.

    • dukeslee

      Thank you, Sarah. xo

  5. Tanya Dennis

    I so needed to hear/read this today. Thank you.

  6. paula bicknell

    I so sweetly remember the day my daughter cut her hair to donate it (she looked about your daughter’s age then), how I cried and hugged her and felt like such a proud momma. Thank you for sharing your life with us. Loved this blog.

  7. Becky Keife

    “But inside her small self, she knows the truth about life –if you never risk the scary thing to do the right thing, you’ll miss chances to be a part of the God Things.” I think most of us know this inside our small selves, but to dig deep in that big God courage and DO what we know is right and brave and true, that is the key to receiving the blessing by being the blessing. You and your sweet girl are inspiring. Yes, preapproved! Always blessed here to read your “yes” to God.

  8. Beloved

    Ah, the lessons that children can teach us. This blog so encouraged me today. Your daughter kicking her fears to the curb to do something wonderful for someone else…AMAZING!

  9. Trudy Den Hoed

    What a sweet thing for Anna to do. 🙂 I really love the lesson in this about risking the scary thing to do so we won’t miss chances to part of God Things. Thank you, Jennifer.

    I saw the West Lyon shirt, and my jaw dropped. Two of my grand-daughters graduated from West Lyon, and two are still there. 🙂 I knew you were from Iowa, and I was so surprised when you said you spoke in Sioux Falls, but I didn’t know you were practically a neighbor. 🙂

  10. Beth

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post. I needed to hear it today!

  11. Leah Adams

    For years….yes, years, I chased after the numbers. Posts, followers, friends, comments, subscribers. Then one day, the Lord reminded me (really He snatched me up by the dyed hair of my head) that I write for an Audience of One. I write because of Him, and to please Him. If He chooses to use anything I write to bless another or point someone to Christ, that’s His business. My business is to write what He tells me to write.
    I’m a teacher of Scripture. Those posts rarely go viral, even from the so-called ‘big names’, of which I am not. I’m not anticipating ever having one go viral. Many posts garner no comments at all. Discouraging? Yes, very. But, as long as Jesus says write, I will write. He called me to it. He will use it in whatever way He sees fit. One of the most freeing things I have done in this regard is to NOT have a link to Google Analytics and my blog numbers in my FAVORITES bar. It decreases the temptation to ‘check in’. 🙂

  12. Jen Daugherty

    This is so encouraging! There is so much pressure to get more page views and traffic….in reality, we just need to write, regardless of who reads. Thank you for these words today!

  13. pastordt

    Note to Anna: Honey, you could be BALD and you would never be ugly. Never. You are a beautiful person, inside and out. Just like your mama.

  14. Mary Bonner

    Jennifer, I read this yesterday and have reflected it on it for 24 hours. I so needed to read. As much as I know in my heart that I am pre-approved, I want to crawl in a hole sometimes and disappear, at least where my writing is concerned. I wrote yesterday about how I wondered if I belonged in the writing/blogging world when I read this by Diane Bailey: Then I read your blog post. I know that we each have a unique story, but it is so very hard to put myself out there…wondering if and when it REALLY matters to anybody.

    But, I believe I am called to do this…so, I pick myself up and try again another day. Thank you for your encouragement, Jennifer! By the way, the haircut is adorable!!

  15. Jillie

    Another Note to Anna: I. Love. You. What a girl, what a heart! You are absolutely beautiful, inside and out. I love your new cut, too. Some very ill person out there will wear your hair with gratitude. And hopefully know it comes from a little girl who loves Jesus with all her heart. You gave of what you have, and the love of Jesus shines through that.
    Jennifer: This is a wonderful post. Going into my “Stuff I Want to Keep” file to read again and again. Such an encourager you are! I’m grateful for your presence here on the Interweb!

  16. IfMeadowsSpeak

    Letting that message sink deep into my soul. And seven years of blogging? Wow. Plus the Crossfit photo? Now there’s a face that is almost better than a photo bomb.

  17. Michelle Stam

    So appreciate you taking the time to get this message out there! It was really encouraging. I am just starting out in the blogging world, and it’s hard to ignore all those messages of “Create this better” or “Get more followers by doing that”. Thanks for what you said here, I just love this line: His banner over you doesn’t say, “Prove yourself” or “Try Harder” or “Go Viral.”

  18. Cheryl Smith

    Your sweet message of encouragement has made an impact where it matters most…in the heart and mind of your precious, little girl. What a selfless, giving thing for her to want and decided on her own to do! YOU have planted those seeds in her, my friend. Whether your posts ever reach the “viral” status or not, you have accomplished the biggest, most important, most coveted achievement of all…your daughters will never wonder what so many have struggled with all their lives…whether or not they are loved and valued by God. They already know that…because of you. Who could ask for more?


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