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The Unbearable Pressure to Do Great Things for the Lord

My quest for significance left me anxious and deflated.
The Unbearable Pressure to Do Great Things for the Lord
Image: Illustration by Rick Szuecs / Source images: Getty / Envato

Several years ago, the self-help sections of bookstores were stocked with bestselling books that sold messages such as, “You can do it,” “Anything is possible,” or “Awaken the giant within you.” These books sought to inspire us to do more with our lives, to achieve something spectacular. Today that message has shifted. Now bestselling self-help books are more likely to address how to cope with low self-esteem and shame and overcome the feeling that we’re not accomplishing enough with our lives. As the Swiss-born philosopher Alain de Botton points out, “There’s a real correlation between a society that tells people that they can do anything, and the existence of low self-esteem.”

I was born in Tokyo, Japan, one of the busiest, most work-oriented cities in the world. My wife, Sakiko, and I regularly return to Japan to visit her family. When I am back, I find myself wondering what my life would have been like if my family had not ...

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