ARTICLE – The True Measure of Success

In Western culture, success is often described as becoming famous, rich or powerful. Surprisingly, dictionaries make no reference to the search for meaning, fulfillment, happiness or human relationships. Isn’t that odd? Doesn’t it seem counterintuitive? 

In the book of Deuteronomy, we read: “If you obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands, he will establish you as his holy people, as he promised you. He will set you high above all the nations he has made. All the people on earth will see that you are a people claimed by the Lord, and they will stand in awe of you.” (Deuteronomy 28:9-10)

Saint Alberto Hurtado, a Chilean Jesuit priest canonized on October 23, 2005, by Pope Benedict XVI, offers these thoughts about life: “As for our lives, are we fully aware of the course they are taking? What course is your life taking? If it is necessary to give this more thought, I would beg each one of you to give it the highest consideration, because to get it right is tantamount to success; to err is quite simply to fail”. (Meditación de Semana Santa para jóvenes)

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that “true happiness is not found in riches or well-being, in human fame or power, or in any human achievement – however beneficial it may be” (CCC 1723). True success should be understood as aligning one’s life with the truth and being willing to endure challenges and sacrifices for the sake of that truth. 

This aligns with the Church’s emphasis on the importance of virtue, selflessness, and the pursuit of eternal values over worldly achievements. So, how can we know if we are living a successful life? Here are a few questions to consider:

  • Are we following God’s commandments?
  • Are we seeking God’s kingdom first?
  • Are we growing in love of God and neighbor?
  • Are we seeking what is most pleasing to God?

If we can answer yes to these questions, then we can be confident that we are on the path of living a successful life in the eyes of God, even if the world does not see it that way.

In the Bible, we are taught that success comes from following God’s will. Listed below are some Bible wisdom that speak about success:

“For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26)

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21)

“Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33)

If accompanied by empathy and commitment to the common good, popularity , wealth, and power may not necessarily be negative and they can even be a gift of God. Nonetheless, if one pursues these with self-centeredness, pride, and neglect of others, introspection is necessary.

Success is not about material possessions, popularity, or worldly achievements. Love for God and for others regardless of circumstances and conditions is what it is all about. When we do this, when we search for what is pleasing to God, God Himself will call us successful (Matthew 25:21).

Pierre-Alain Giffard

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