The weekend began in what I thought was a paradox; it turned into a mixture of irony and contemplation then culminated in a very surreal conversation that brought to light a subject that can be summed up in the words of Albert Einstein: “Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.” It was a very bizarre time, highlighted by a very enlightening conversation with a friend whom I have the utmost respect and admiration.
I was raised by two parents and an entire village of people who were driven by many motivating factors to reach one elusive goal – Success. The definition of success for many parents is multi-faceted, multi-layered with multiple ways of achieving success. For my parents it seemed quite simple – honor God, honor your parents, respect all you come in contact with, work hard, learn even harder. These were the fundamental blocks upon which success was built upon.
My interpretation of my parents’ wishes was siphoned through a very Generation-X thought process that was whittled down into a very manageable, easy to digest package – success is measured simply by the number of toys you own and whether or not you control the other kids in the sand box. Therefore, Einstein’s theory of becoming a man of value did not necessarily find a home in my head when I was a twenty-something running around trying to loot and plunder as fast as I possibly could and in the process achieve a clandestine objective of gathering as much praise as possible.
This was my life. This was my credo. It was all about me.
That same philosophy consumed me in my personal life when dealing with the people who loved me more than I deserved. My marriage suffered tremendously. My sons had little respect for me. I lost most of my friends and alienated the ones who held out hope that I would see and fix the problems.
God has a sense of humor. Have you ever heard the word ‘Vainglory?’ I was reminded of the term on Sunday during a lesson taught in church by my friend Lei.
Vainglory: 1. Boastful, unwarranted pride in one's accomplishments or qualities. 2. Vain, ostentatious display.
There have been numerous times in my life when I operated under the sole premise that once I had received the measure of success that I had worked my entire life to attain, then I would receive the acknowledgement, accolades and prestige I deserved from my peers. In short order, I lived my life for fame and fortune rather than living it for a more worthy purpose.
Time changes us. In time, I was stripped of all that I had worked so hard to accomplish and was left with what God felt I needed – absolutely nothing but the people who mattered (my family and friends), faith, perseverance and a desire to be a better man in all of its intricate aspects, defeats, sorrows and the possibility to have more wholesome triumphs with greater purpose.
In the past I would have asked, “What’s in it for me?” Now I ask, “How can we all benefit from this?”
In the past I would have said, “I don’t want him involved because he offended me and I don’t like him.” Now I’m more prone to say, “We have our differences, but I see the value he brings to achieving the overall success of this project.”
There can be no vanity or pride in our marriage. We can never succeed if we do things with selfish pride or malicious intent in our hearts. Until I resolve today to do things for good and not for my vainglory, then things like contention, conceit and arrogance will rule us and eventually destroy us.
Am I changed man because of it? Absolutely! Am I entirely perfect because of it? Absolutely not. But it gives me a better perspective on who I can be and what I can accomplish if my goals for success encompasses more than just me.
I had a conversation with a friend today that solidified this theory for me and gives me more inspiration and incentive to live by the same ideal that Einstein encouraged – If I seek to add more value to my life and the lives of others, I believe I will be much more successful in my own life than by living it with selfish pride and objectives.
Finally, though these ramblings may not mean much to anyone but me who has learned and has been reminded once again what is truly important in life I close with the words of Mother Theresa who embodied service and a lived her life for others – “I have found the paradox that if I love until it hurts, then there is no hurt, but only more love.”
Take a moment to love until it hurts and in so doing, you will feel more fulfilled in your own life.