Success Defined

Though I know I shouldn’t, I worry about success all the time. I’m an eldest child who grew up in a Legalistic church, so it’s really no surprise I became a task-oriented perfectionist.  In part, that’s well and good. It’s has to be fitting and right to desire to do things well, to find satisfaction in a job well-done, to cultivate the harvest of whatever realm we give ourselves. These kinds of desires have played out in the lives of influential people for all time. As cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”  And yet, at the same time, one can become quite driven, focused on outcome instead of process. As Ann Voskamp has said, “Perfectionism is a slow death by self.” It’s all too easy to spend ourselves on things that aren’t truly worthy of the cost of our lives, all too common to find ourselves with a need to please those around us. Too often, we become anchored unstably in our perceived notions of their expectations. Too often, we live under the impression we’re casting our cares away, but if we refuse to share their burdens with others in intentional ways, our cares have made us castaways to the people we love the most. No small wonder all my life, I’ve found myself craving Life I can’t generate on my own.
How should we measure success? Does a perfect God require perfection, and if not, exactly what does He expect of us? The prophet Micah answers this question quite simply and succinctly: “What does the Lord require of you, but to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). Ralph Waldo Emerson also offered a great definition of what success looks like: “To laugh often & much, to win the respect of intelligent people & the affection of children, to know even ONE  life has breathed easier because you have lived, THIS is to succeed.” May we be fair to those we encounter, maintain a passion for compassion, and walk in authenticity and humility with God and one another. May we each help even one life to breath easier through the givenness and offering of our lives.

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