Before IF:Gathering convenes in Austin, Texas, this weekend, founder Jennie Allen shares the inspirations behind her just-released book “Nothing to Prove: Why We Can Stop Trying So Hard,” her passion for creating tools to help women grow in their faith and her personal story of how she ultimately found freedom in removing daily pressures from her own life.
You said “Nothing to Prove” was written for all women. Why do they need this message?
As women, we tend to be hard on ourselves. We put a lot of expectations on ourselves and interpret criticism in a way that [adds pressure]. Whether you’re in college or you’re 70, I think we all struggle with this. We all want to be good leaders; we want to be good friends; we want to be good wives or moms; we want to be faithful to God. Those are all good things to want, but we begin to measure all of that based on the world’s standards, and we end up exhausted.
How does your own story of leadership tie into the book?
For the last few years, I have led a major organization, and only a couple of years before I was a stay-at-home mom. It was a big leap to become a CEO of a growing organization. I [was fearful] I would mess it up. I wanted more than anything to hear from God: “I’m proud of you. You’re doing this well.” People would tell me they were proud of me, but it didn’t feel like enough. I think as women and as Christ followers, we do carry that pressure. Are we pure-hearted enough as we lead? Are we doing it for the right motives? Are we doing the best we can? I got urgent about serving, loving and leading—and doing that as fast and as hard as I could—and I burned everybody out in the process. I burned myself out. I had to learn that I was working with God instead of for God. I realized he was beside me causing all of this to happen and I didn’t have to stress as much.
What is the biggest takeaway you hope readers get out of it?
[God] is enough so we don’t have to be. We don’t have to prove anything because he has proven everything. And he hasn’t only proven it, he keeps giving us what we need. I think we’re searching the earth for what we’re so hungry for. And he’s it. I get excited about women realizing that—hopefully in a fresh way.
And what should they do when they’re done?
I hope they exhale and enjoy grace in a way they’ve never enjoyed it [before]. The truth is things are going to fall through the cracks. We tend to go to a deep, dark place when we fail instead of enjoying grace. We tend to get derailed so easily, but we’re going to be OK.
Photo credit: Lily & Sparrow Photo Co.