Lean In. The bold black letters greet me every morning. Sheryl Sandberg’s book has been sitting on my desk for the past two weeks as part of a work project.
Whether you love Sandberg’s book or hate it, one thing is true for all of us—we could all stand to lean in a little more.
To do this we must ask ourselves the same question Sheryl asked a group of women during a collegiate convocation address, “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” The thought isn’t new or novel. But somehow seeing those black letters typed on a rough, creamy page makes it stick.
What would I do if I weren’t afraid? I started making a list:
- I’d lead the coaches’ wives in my sphere of influence with transparency and courage.
- I’d knock on my neighbor’s door, present a loaf of banana bread, and ask if she’d like to join me for church sometime.
- I’d text the women in my small group more often just to check on them.
- I’d answer my coworker’s request for input, speaking in a clear, honest way.
Overcoming fear requires us to step out—to lean in—and give everything we have to the person or pursuit before us. It sounds easy. But experience tells us it’s one of the hardest things we’re called to do.
As I look at my life, I long to lean in more. I want that wrung out feeling, where you give everything you have to a day instead of spending all your energy on tomorrow’s plans. I crave the fellowship that comes from laying your feelings, dreams, fears out before another, unhindered by what she might think.
Yet before we lean in, we must let go. Here’s where Sheryl’s premise might be accurate but somewhat incomplete. Leaning in doesn’t always come from trying harder or staying up later. Ultimately it comes from letting go.
The paradox of the Christian faith is that before we can fully live, we must let go of our projections, presuppositions, and five-year plans. God calls us to let go of everything—even our very lives—so that we will lean on and live for him alone.
When Jesus told his followers how to make the most of this life, he used a paradox to explain his point. “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it” (Luke 9:24). He didn’t stop there either. Throughout the rest of Luke’s gospel, Jesus called his people to sell their possessions, give up their agendas, rearrange their priorities, and risk their lives.
Only in letting go can we truly lean in. Life floods in when we loosen our grip and live fully in the present—at work and at home, with a friend or in a meeting.
So what would you do if you weren’t afraid? Make a list. Then let go and lean in.