Maybe it was the pandemic slow down, or just people getting fed up with it, but the last couple of years have seen a backlash against what has been termed “hustle culture.”
Hustle culture—also known as burnout culture or grind culture—is the glorification of spending every waking hour working.
Hustle culture rose in popularity among the Millenial generation in the wake of 2008’s Great Recession. The concept of working extreme hours to achieve success in the more challenging economic climate came to be viewed as a badge of honor. And it persists to this day.
You can find evidence of hustle culture in the Instagram image of a 5:00 a.m. alarm clock with the caption, “rise and grind” written beneath it. You see it in the relentless pursuit of freelance gigs, side businesses, and the veneration of never taking a break.
In a 2010 interview, Elon Musk famously gave a perfect example of hustle culture when he gave entrepreneurs the following advice:
“If other people are putting in 40 hour work weeks and you’re putting in 100 hour work weeks, then even if you’re doing the same thing you know that you will achieve in 4 months what it takes them a year to achieve.”
I guess the math checks out…
if you happen to be a machine.
The problem is, normal people shouldn’t work like that week after week. Besides the many studies and countless warnings about the detrimental effects of overworking on our health, relationships, and ironically on our work itself, there is at least one more reason Christians should be wary of embracing hustle culture.
We weren’t designed for constant hustle.
A More Human Pace
In his book, You’re Only Human: How Your Limits Reflect God’s Design and Why That’s Good News, Kelly Kapic explores what God’s Word tells us about our finitude. Our limits are not a flaw in us caused by sin, but part and parcel of being creatures.
Those of us who are interested in productivity often work as if we think we are gods—capable of pushing non-stop, not needing rest, and always able to get just a little more done if we just hustle a little harder. But Dr. Kapic’s book is a welcome reminder that we can’t get it all done, and that’s okay.
In many ways, the book is an antidote to hustle culture in the Christian world.
I had a chance to talk to Dr. Kapic on a recent episode of the podcast. And since he’d written so much about embracing our limits, I was surprised to hear him say that he doesn’t think hustling is a bad thing. God made us to be able to sprint for a season. The problems come, however, when the hustle never stops.
If we were to drop in on an ancient farmer during harvest, we would be blown away by how long and hard he worked. As Dr. Kapic notes in our conversation, “there were certain times a year where you worked super long, hard day. But you didn’t do that all the time.”
That last sentence is the key.
“But you didn’t do that all the time.”
Hard work and striving to be maximally productive is a great and noble thing—in certain seasons. But God did not create us for sustained maximal output.
We aren’t machines. And we certainly aren’t gods. We’re creatures.
So, yes, there’s a time to hustle. But there’s also a time to stroll—to slow down, rest, and simply enjoy God and His creation. Wisdom is knowing the difference between seasons of hustle and seasons of strolling and embracing the fact that productivity will look different in each.