I just returned from a vacation spent in the company of an old friend.
Because it rained during much of our trip, we ended up talking quite a bit over the course of a week. We talked about our lives. Our families. And our love for God.
Turns out, we have a lot in common.
One of the things we discussed was the direction each of our lives had taken, in regards to our schooling (college and beyond), our careers, and our interests and activities.
And this made me think, in regards to myself, objectively, I have lived a pretty average life.
A lot of the people I have known throughout my life have strived to be successful, but I have spent my life honestly trying to avoid worldly success. It’s just not something I personally believe is important.
Now, that may seem odd. I mean, what kind of loser doesn’t want to be successful?
Me. I am that loser.
But actually, truth be told, I am interested in being successful. Just not the world’s version of it.
The definition of success
I think the problem I have with “success” is how it’s normally defined. Is success becoming famous, wealthy, creating a big money-making business, or coming up with an idea that people can’t live without?
But again, it depends on how you define success.
If all you’re striving for is money, a successful business, or fame…will you keep your dignity to achieve it? Will you help to improve the lives of others?
Will you please God?
And for all that “success,” what happens when you die?
For me personally, I have been approached to place advertisements on my site. I have had offers to publish my writing on simplicity if I remove the mention of God. I’ve even been approached with a book deal, if I agree not to discuss certain topics that I prefer to discuss (my faith).
But at what cost?
For this so-called success I would have to compromise my principles, writing about topics half-heartedly, because I might possibly offend someone. Or worse, trick them into buying a book that excludes my faith and mention of God, when I know that God is the answer to all things.
It’s not worth it.
One thing, though, is for sure. Whatever your definition of success is, it’s something you’re looking for … something that exists in the future. It’s based on your desire to achieve something for yourself due to your feelings that you’re not where you want to be.
Worldly people seek to define their success from the esteem and praise from one another. Success is often based on status and admiration.
At best it’s vain. And it’s also extremely subjective.
Human glory, worldly honor, and earthly possessions – these are all empty and meaningless when compared to the love, honor and glory of God.
True greatness and success is not in a person who is satisfied with himself. It is only in those with whom God is satisfied.
God will never estimate our merits or success by our knowledge, education, wealth, status, or our position among others. And He certainly won’t be impressed if we’re driving a new BMW. But God will measure our success by our self-sacrifice, humility and charity towards others.
God knows if we think and rely too much on ourselves, versus seeking His Will.
God knows if we give honor and glory to ourselves, rather than honoring and glorifying Him.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that having a good education, or a good work position, or owning your own company, or even being a celebrity is a bad thing. But it is a bad thing, when our motivations (or our end result) is the want or desire for admiration from others.
God alone is to be worshipped.
And if you love God in all things, you’ll praise His Name, not yours. You will esteem and honor God’s Will, not your own estimation of personal success and accomplishments.
In the end, to me personally, success can only be measured in one way.
Success is defined in finding joy, love, honor and glory in God.
And if you find your success and accomplishment in God, and in God alone, you have found the greatest level of success ever possible.
Alan Scott is a writer and graphic designer residing in Virginia. A former Agnostic, he converted to the Catholic faith in 2004. In 2014 he started his blog GrowInVirtue.com, which focuses on growing in holiness, by attempting to live a life more simple and virtuous, a life that is lived for God. When he’s not writing or designing, you’ll find him, hands dirty, in his garden. You can find him on Facebook, too.