by Jeff Montgomery
It seems that every day we are bombarded with images of what it means to be successful. Most of those images are things of a material nature, such as new and fancy cars, bigger and more elaborate homes, the latest fashions, and all of the cutting edge electronic gadgets. It's easy to get caught up in the spirit of these images, and think you're not successful until you 'get' these things.
A similar thing occurs with careers. The push is always on to keep moving, that in order to say you're successful, you have to be constantly pushing for that next promotion, or that big bonus. We're measured by how much money we make. We're led to believe that we should look up to the Donald Trumps and Bill Gates' of the world as the pinnacle for success.
Now don't get me wrong. I truly believe that money comes in handy from time to time, say to make that mortgage payment or to put some grub on the dinner table. But is it important to constantly be making more? Is gaining the big promotions and the consequent cost to get there worth the result?
There are also quite a few people out there working in the 'motivational speaker' arena, giving us all sorts of advice about how to be successful. But what is that definition of success? Even though they may mention God in passing, the ultimate goal seems to be to gain that material success mentioned earlier.
But as Catholics and Christians, how should we define success? In particular, how does our Catholic faith affect how we define success? There are probably as many answers to that question as we have people reading this article, but I think there are some common themes that might emerge.
First, if we consider God our Heavenly Father (which we should!) we should ask ourselves what our Father expects of us. He has given us clear direction in giving us what he terms the greatest commandment - that we should love. We should love God with all our heart. We should love our fellow humans. Nothing there about making gobs of money and having the latest Lexus.
As Catholics, we can also look at the lives of the saints for direction. Consider a saint such as St. Francis. Francis grew up the son of a wealthy textile merchant, but once God spoke to him he abandoned his material trappings and embraced Lady Poverty as a way of life. St. Clare of Assisi was a member of the noble class of her time, and abandoned it to also live in poverty. St. Paul himself lived in poverty and traveled the known world preaching the gospel and founding churches. Even modern day figures such as Mother Teresa are examples people living a simple life to the glory of God.
Does this mean that we need to abandon our material things and live the poverty life? Not necessarily. But it does point out that the real definition of success might be something other than accumulating 'things'.
The saints mentioned above lived simple lives, but their lives, given over to God, are affecting people even to this day! What might we understand about success from their example?
Could the true meaning of success be found in listening to God, and finding out what He needs for us to do with our lives? Jesus himself instructs us to do everything to the glory of God. For some of us, that might mean living modestly, but affecting people in great ways. Others are gifted with talents that are rewarded with tons of money, but that money can be used to affect people in significant ways - building shelters, feeding the poor, or fighting evil and injustice in the world.
The point is that God has a plan for each of us, and once we truly listen to Him and find out that plan, we are on the true path of success.
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