Success (noun): the accomplishment of an aim or purpose; the attainment of popularity or profit
As a birthday gift during my college years, I received a blue fabric-covered journal book from a friend. Inside the front cover, she recorded this poem from Louise Driscoll:
Within your heart
Keep one still, secret spot
Where dreams may go,
And sheltered so,
May thrive and grow –
Where doubt and fear are not.
Oh keep a place apart
Within your heart
For little dreams to go.
This book immediately became the place for me to gather quotes, quips, poetry, book excerpts, and short stories that I heard, read, or somehow stumbled upon that caught my attention. Today, I can easily hop on the internet to find inspirational quotes and stories in abundance.
Yet I still hold this book dear to my heart for two main reasons:
- The book stirs up precious memories of the friendship I shared with the giver of the book.
- The words written in my own hand are a form of a dairy, essentially becoming a historical record of my life during my college years.
As I turn the pages of the book, I easily identify a few topical themes of the items I collected: motivation, attitude, friendship, compassion, grief, femininity, and success. These represent the life lessons I was experiencing at that time.
Here are a few items from my collection on the subject of SUCCESS:
Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.Henry Ford
“What is success? To laugh often and much; To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; To appreciate the beauty; To find the best in others; To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived; This is to have succeeded.”Ralph Waldo Emerson
“If you think you are beaten, you areWalter D. Wintle
If you think you dare not, you don’t,
If you like to win, but you think you can’t
It is almost certain you won’t.
If you think you’ll lose, you’re lost
For out of the world we find,
Success begins with a person’s will
It’s all in the state of mind.
Life’s battles don’t always go
To the stronger or faster woman,
But soon or late the one who wins
Is the one WHO THINKS SHE CAN!”
Success…a word that means different things to each person (look at Ralph Waldo Emerson’s quote again – how many different ways does he define success?), but the dictionary defines success as the accomplishment of an aim or purpose; or the attainment of popularity or profit.
Whether or not I am successful depends on how I define it. In other words, the first step towards success is defining it for myself.
Looking back on the success-related quotes I put in my journal, I get glimpses about how I define success. And yet, this particular journal doesn’t have any scriptural references, so the picture is incomplete.
Here are words from the Lord as he talks to Joshua shortly after the death of Moses:
“Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.”Joshua 1:7
And biblical descriptions of “successful” Kings (King Hezekiah, King Uzziah):
He held fast to the Lord and did not stop following him; he kept the commands the Lord had given Moses. And the Lord was with him; he was successful in whatever he undertook.2 Kings 18:6-7
He sought God during the days of Zechariah, who instructed him in the fear of God. As long as he sought the Lord, God gave him success.2 Chronicles 26:5
In all of these scriptures, it seems that the effort and action to follow God’s commands is what leads to success. Not necessarily what is achieved by the effort, but the act of obedience in itself equates to success. Keeping God’s commands, seeking God first in all I do, is a path to success.
I think many of us get caught up in defining success as a Christian as some sort of complicated formula:
X minutes of prayer + Y bible studies + $ donated + Z worship attendance = SUCCESSFUL CHRISTIAN
If the first step toward success is defining it for myself, that’s what I’m going to do. And since success is the accomplishment of a purpose, I first need to remind myself of my purpose. A few months ago, I shared in my blog post PURPOSE these words:
My purpose is to Love. Since Christ is Love, when we become one with Him, we embody love and radiate it outwards. Love then drives us to serve, to shine, and share His light with the world.
This is how I choose to define success (as a Christian):
Following Christ’s commands to Love God and Love Others.
When I define it this way, my focus shifts away from achievements, accolades, wealth, and fame, and towards serving God and caring for others.
My success as a parent is NOT defined by the character of my children. My child’s academic and athletic achievements do not contribute to nor subtract from my success. Rather, my success as a parent is measured by the effort I put forth into loving God and loving them.
Do I show up for my child? Do I model godly behavior for my child? Am I present with my child? Do I pray for my child? These are true measurements of my success as a parent, because they represent my effort to love God and love others.
When exploring the question of success, and the inclination to measure it based on worldly standards of fame, wealth, possessions, status, and titles, the best question to ask myself is recorded in scripture:
And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?Matthew 16:26
Toby Mac’s song “Lose My Soul” is based on this scripture. It’s a great refrain to turn to when the definition of success is getting blurry… take a listen and let me know your thoughts about success by commenting below!