Why Less is More
Less is More. Ever heard that saying? I realize now that this principle has been silently guiding my life for as long as I can remember. I love this short axiom because it holds such rich truth that applies to every facet of our lives.
First case in point: women’s make-up and hair. Ladies, less is always more. It feels like such a waste when I see naturally pretty women hidden under a mask of over-the-top make-up. Some of the most beautiful women, for whatever reason, are convinced that they need obscene amounts of eye shadow, mascara, eyeliner, base, etc. in order to look great. But by coating their faces in all of this (and then coloring their hair some extreme blonde or black – a color not even close to their natural hue), they actually hide their beauty and create a cheap look. So many classy women are walking around with this harsh hair and make-up ensemble. It’s tragic, really. Such a waste of beauty. Make-up and hair color ought to highlight your natural assets. They should not be used as an attempt to create features that don’t even exist.
Why do women do this? I find myself asking this question so often. I think most women take their beauty cues from their mothers. How many times have I seen mother and daughter walking beside each other somewhere, both sporting extreme hair and make-up? Like mother, like daughter. For the cases where this behavior wasn’t learned from Mom, perhaps our culture is to blame. Americans, as a whole, have pretty flawed criteria for what renders a woman beautiful. But whatever the reason is, this over-the-top approach is faulty.
*Less make-up yields more beauty.*
Another great application of this rule comes at Christmastime. Who ever decreed that five Christmas trees must be erected in one’s home (before Thanksgiving) in order for the holiday to be blessed? And who ever required expensive gifts for family members that have to be purchased with credit? And who ever decided that December obligates each and every person to nonstop parties and events? I’m not buying into this mindset. This past December was decidedly low key and restful for me. It was wonderful. Life is too precious to allow it to be snuffed out by peer and cultural pressure. So much of what people do at Christmas, and at every holiday for that matter, is rooted in the expectations of others.
Maybe some people actually enjoy using the “fancy” dishes (and then painstakingly cleaning them) when they host these holiday dinners. But their complaints about all the effort they put into these details conveys the opposite. So why do they keep investing such time and effort into these insignificant details? Because there is some unspoken expectation that these things have to be done. Maybe the pressure stems from the opinions of others. Maybe it’s simply an internal taskmaster within the participant that’s dictating these Christmas rules. Wherever it’s coming from, it’s a lie. Christmas is blessed regardless of these irrelevant “obligations” for one simple reason: it celebrates the coming of our King. And since this truth is unchanging, we are free to celebrate in ways that are actually enjoyable to us. We can choose to say ‘yes’ to the details that are life-giving for us and ‘no’ to the ones that drain us dry. Ah – the power of simplicity! Christmas, and life in general, are so much more enjoyable when we live this way. I put this wisdom into action this past Christmas by opting not to send Christmas cards. I typically do enjoy sending them, but after the intensity of my fall seminary semester, designing cards and addressing envelopes felt more like a homework assignment than a source of joy. So we 86-ed the Christmas cards this year. Simple as that!
*Less hassle yields a more restful and fulfilling Christmas season.*
Another case where less is more: communication of every kind. Fewer words, aptly spoken, accomplish more than a long string of weaker words. This is true in both writing and speaking. It also applies to prayer in certain contexts. Prayers don’t have to be long and elaborate for God to hear them. I’m speaking now about public ministry situations especially (long, intercessory prayers certainly have their place). At the average public gathering, lingering in a long prayer or belaboring a sermon can cause a lot of people to disconnect – unless the words are actually gripping them. Less is more on social media as well. Posts and pictures will pack much more punch if there are fewer of them. When I start to see five and six posts from a person in one day, I usually “unfollow” him/her. Less is more, people. I like you… but I don’t necessarily want to hear from you multiple times each day. Nor do the rest of your followers and Facebook friends.
*Less words yield more impact.*
‘Less is More’ also speaks great wisdom into our spiritual lives. Life in Christ is so much more about being than it is about doing. Cultivating and protecting our inner connection with the Holy Spirit is of utmost importance. It’s from that inner well that we draw in order to love and serve people around us. Obviously, life in Christ does entail tangible ministry to others, not just our personal wholeness. But we can’t give what we don’t have. The First Thing must always stay the First Thing. Jesus never told us that we need seventeen weekly commitments to prove our love for God. His concern is fruitfulness, not busyness (John 15:4). Busyness has become a virtue to many people. They see their serving, speaking, baking, cleaning, volunteering, teaching, etc. as their ticket to favor with God or as proof of their superior Christianity. Both are false. In Christ, we already have God’s favor – no strings attached. And superior Christianity is an empty goal. Jesus isn’t judging a competition; he’s pursuing a Bride. A Bride who doesn’t confuse busyness with intimacy.
How does this play out practically? For starters, it means that we do not commit to activities (even “Christian” ones) out of coercion. We do not allow people’s expectations of us to determine what we say ‘yes’ and ‘no’ to. Rather, we engage in activities that align with our calling, our passions, and the witness of the Spirit within us. And we maintain boundaries around ourselves which protect divine order in our lives: God first, then spouse, then kids, etc. Getting enough rest, cultivating our daily connection with God, prioritizing our spouse and children, and taking time to simply enjoy life are all godly pursuits. Pursuits that are higher in importance than our participation in some list of “obligations” and activities. I am not saying that protecting the highest priorities leaves no room for anything else, but I am saying that it leaves limited room. So we must choose wisely. We aren’t called to do everything. And we inevitably will be approached about doing more than we are called to do. We must discern which ventures are the most fruitful. Which of my potential commitments will best utilize my God-given gifts, advance the Kingdom, bless the lives of others, and bring me joy? Those are worth pursuing. Things done out of obligation lack anointing and don’t produce life in the doer. That life-giving quality of God-inspired work is the hidden fuel source that keeps refilling someone after he/she gives out, enabling him/her to keep doing it. Without that factor, serving becomes drudgery. Conversely, passionately engaging in just a few things is win-win. We effectively minister to others because we are doing what God created us (as individuals) to do and are prioritizing rest along the way.
*Less busyness yields more fruitfulness.*
‘Less is More’ offers wisdom for every component of our lives. When applied, it brings to a burning focus what matters most by removing unnecessary details. And it creates room to display beauty which can only be seen in the context of simplicity.