Success: What is it and should we want it?

by Sporadicwriter

What is success to you? What is its definition?
To many, success is measured by achieving one’s goals for career advancement, high levels of academic achievement, prestige, renown and wealth.

Is this truly success? Are wealth and achievement all we need?
As one deeply rooted in community, I admit to being immersed into this type of life. I have been raised and grown up valuing wealth and prestige, high academic and professional achievement as a fulfilled life. All these values, however, are also contrary to what I have always been taught as a Christian about the passing qualities of this world.

There is a higher calling and meaning for all people in existence beyond the world of haze that is money, sex, career and materialism.

As a Christian, I have always been taught to look beyond the surface, beyond what the world sees and what we have created for ourselves. I grew up believing in an existence beyond the busyness that the world has created for itself.

I see the materialism, the obsessions with money, sex and being a workaholic. I have seen beyond the superficiality of our material world, valuing altruism and service above self.

Again I ask, “What is success?”
I believe it is the ability to perceive the shallowness of life in the superficialities of professional achievement, wealth and materialism. It is the ability to work towards the betterment of humanity, to draw oneself into a deeper sense of what it means to truly be human, to give up one’s focus on self but rather focus on the betterment of others less fortunate than oneself. It means to value the things that make life truly important and worth living: the fragility of life, the strength of family, support of friendship, love shared in intimacy, encouragement to the downtrodden, help to the disadvantaged and care for those who don’t know it nor have ever experienced it. This, to me, is the meaning of life.

Success is having achieved pain in circumstances and using it for the betterment of yourself and others. It is an on-going sense of overcoming. To continually overcome the struggles of life, despite what others may say or think or do. You have achieved success.

Lately, I have been repeatedly faced with the decision to overcome. There is the opportunity for me to give up all my vision of success: career growth, academic achievement and financial self-sufficiency. I have the opportunity to give up all these things for joy of life, adventure and continual overcoming. However, I feel so burdened to remain connected to the life of superficiality. In order to maintain my value of family and help for the disadvantaged, I need the academic achievement and career advancement that does not really matter at all in the grand scheme of true life. I know that to give those things up will mean disappointment to my family, who has held out hope for me to be the “success” [advanced degree(s) and decent salary: $50-60K min] where my brother has fallen short of family expectations. Above all, my greatest concerns are for family. It is important to me to lessen the burden of financial uncertainty and absence of friendship for one family member who will soon be alone in this world. Still important, also, is the elder care of my parents in their old age. In this world, we are all called to individual responsibility. Yet, for those that cannot help themselves, family is often there to pick them up and that is the role I desire to take. Professional achievement would provide financial support in caring for family as well as for direct service to the marginalized and disadvantaged.

I know that I would be overjoyed to give up all these things only to become miserable, feeling my life a waste as I am unable to fulfill my dream to help the disadvantaged. How do I give up on this dream when it is so intertwined with both realities of life? I do not feel as though one can truly be severed from the other. And yet, in many ways, the one cannot co-exist with the other.

It is a conundrum, is it not?
This is the plight of one who lives in this world.
How can one truly live in it and yet still not be of it? It is often quite a gray area.

Perhaps, it is the strength of a mature believer to acknowledge the severance that is needed and the wisdom of God that provides the avenue to make a clean cut into unadulterated Life.

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