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.
How about this, for Catholics: “Success is the progressive realization of a worthy idea, in line with your talents, which promotes the Gospel.” 🙂
Success is becoming a saint. Everything else flows from that.
Of course but that sounds oversimplified in this context. I’m thinking of this:
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
James 2:18, 20
But some one will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith. Do you want to be shown, you foolish fellow, that faith apart from works is barren?
The successful realization of a worthy ideal is the process of becoming a saint, not the end game or byproduct of it. They are one in the same and the Lord is merciful.
Even in failure, as long as we persevere in Christ for that ideal, we have been made truly successful.
But only as long as you are not both planning to fail in advance and cashing in that chip at your particular judgment. Verses like this help to keep us honest with ourselves:
He who conquers shall have this heritage, and I will be his God and he shall be my son.
And this one too:
“For to him who has will more be given; and from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” 🙂
“Salvation is the only Success there is…and it is given”
Mother Mary Frances, PCC
If we remember to constantly do everything as a form of Prayer, Thanksgiving and for the Glory of God, We are on the road to the only “Success” that matters.
Ultimately, of course. But that path should be filled with successes along the way. Jesus had a successful ministry. So did the Apostles. They succeeded in spreading the Gospel at Jesus’ command. They did something. Western civilization is a rolling success based on Catholic faith. There would be no Bible without the success of the Bishops in sorting that out. There would be no monasteries or convents without faithful vision and holy goals to bring them about by persistence and hard work on a daily basis.
It’s true that many people enshrine failure as a virtue, and christen their own shortcomings as “suffering for the Lord”, etc.
“Ultimately, of course. But that path should be filled with successes along the way”
What drove them? Inspired them? The faith, belief and mindset that absolutely everything is a gift from God….including failure(s). What they did is not as important as why they did it….aka The Glory of God.
I hear you, but that logic in this context makes it easy to conclude that the great apostasy is a gift from God. Failing a math test isn’t a gift, etc. All things work for the good of those in Christ who called according to his purpose, but we don’t need to enshrine personal failure or shortcoming as the 8th sacrament. We should strive or achievement and success of whatever venture we are in: housewife, bus driver, businessman, priest, etc.
I would also submit that “What they did is not as important as why they did it” should properly be stated as “What they did is inseparable from why they did it”. That is a wholistic understanding of faith, a rejection of dualism, where body and soul are one entity…
The answer to all of it? ….”Just Do It!”. Paralysis of Analysis aka Perfection is the enemy of doing. Take care.
What school of logic are you using? I guess Matt 6:33 is illogical? Who is talking about enshrining “personal failure”, “shortcomings” or “apostasy?” You do your best in whatever you do. But to really do it right, remember to do it first for the Glory of God. Basic.
Matt 6:33…..It’s the key to life and happiness. IMO, your complicating something that is as basic as breathing. It’s truly an authentic Catholic mindset. If we do our best and remember Matt 6:33 in all that we do. Then there are no failures….maybe some ‘human” disappointments…. but not failures. No one says it’s easy but that’s what the OTF and Sacraments are there for. In God’s eyes we don’t fail if we focus on doing everything for His Glory. That’s why Mother Mary Frances reminded us that “Salvation is the only Success there is” Is that not why we are all here in the first place?, Is that not the reason Christ came?. The real problem today is no one lives and acts like they actually believe the OTF.
In Texas they call it..”All Hat, No Horse” Take care.
Did you read Matt 6:33? Jesus is taking about worrying about food and clothing, etc. The entire section is about worry, from v25-34. No one is taking about worrying.
Go back above to Eph 2:10 or James 2:18-20 for a better context. I’m talking about working at what God put us here for, in grace, as in the two passages just mentioned.
I totally agree with everything you mentioned. I also firmly believe that to compromise ones beliefs, ethics, morals, is most certainly not being successful. While titles may cause others to respect you, before they even know you (and therefore undeservedly), being able to respect oneself in keeping with ones beliefs, etc is more valuable to me. Success for me was never about money, or things, but trying my best to live a God centered life choosing directions, etc as I believe lives up to that goal.
I’m reminded of Mother Teresa’s saying, “God doesn’t expect us to be successful, only faithful.” Or something to that effect, and maybe someone else said it. Anyways, I think it’s true. We need not worry about anything other than being successful in being faithful to God and His Church — not even being successful in promoting the Gospel. Another way to say it might be, “Fulfill the duties of your state of life and leave the rest to God.”
“We need not worry about anything other than being successful in being faithful to God and His Church — not even being successful in promoting the Gospel.”
Yet Paul says “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel” and “It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be put to shame in any way, but that by my speaking with all boldness, Christ will be exalted now as always in my body, whether by life or by death.” and again “Brethren, join in imitating me, and mark those who so live as you have an example in us.”
I think we have to keep in mind that Mother Teresa’s version of “failing” is probably a lot more “successful” than one might think at first glance. I have heard this quote in so many contexts where plainly, honestly, someone was using it as an excuse. Honestly think back on when you’ve heard that quoted. It’s usually prefaced with a sentiment like “Oh well, that didn’t work but…remember what Mother Teresa said…”. I picture Mother Teresa doing a facepalm saying “That’s not how I meant that…” 🙂
Or like St. James says, “For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so faith apart from works is dead.” The point is not that we are made good by works or “successful enterprises” et al (we are not), but rather any attempt to separate faith from works, i.e., getting things done, results in dualism…and what is dualism except the very spirit of Modernism which says, in short, “I’m OK. You’re OK. Just love, don’t judge, and all is good”. That is your typical non-real-presence-priest sermon. That is what is coming out of Rome, and is the sentiment behind turning the priest towards the people and removing kneelers, communion on the hand, and a myriad of other liturgical obfuscations.
‘Success’ in worldly terms is one of modern society’s great idols.
Thank you for your wonderful insights!!
I oft suppress
I can impress.
My vice of flesh
I can express
By drinking, eating
For failure’s mine
But I confess…
I am a great success!
One thing that I’ve realized is that when a married couple is open to life–completely open–without contraception or use of natural family planning as a contraception, God opens doors to a way to better provide for your family. My wife and I have experienced this.
There’s something synthetic and diabolically selfish with couples who wait until their late twenties or thirties to have children so they can travel here and there, have a few extra vacations, “prolong the honeymoon”, or buy a couple expensive cars.
I mean, really, who are we to tell God how many children He’s going to bring into this world with our cooperation? Our duty is to raise souls for heaven. How can we tell Him that, well, we’re only going to raise one or two for You.
Success is raising souls for heaven in accordance with His will.
Thank you so much for this article. It was just what I needed in my life at this precise moment. It is great consolation (I am delving more deeply in Ignatian Spirituality now and this is spot-on in regards to what your words have done for me). God bless.