C. S. Lewis wrote that "We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and then bid the geldings to be fruitful." Lewis could very well have been writing about our day and age.
We've been inundated lately with story after story revealing the fallenness of human nature and the seeming lack of integrity in our culture. We've seen it in our colleges and universities, with a large percentage of students admitting to cheating. We've seen it in business with Conrad Black lining his pockets with shareholders money. We've seen it in politics - take your pick which story, country, leader, etc... We've seen it with our celebrities with the latest being Lindsay Lohan. We've also seen it in the sports world with the Barry Bonds steroid scandal, the ongoing Tour de France blood-doping story and, of course, Michael Vick and his dog-fighting empire.
While I don't want to rush to judgment on Vick (you know the whole innocent until proven guilty thing), the point is that we have created a culture where we have placed an artificial idea of success on a pedestal, and many are paying the price. Vick recently signed a $130 million contract with the Atlanta Falcons. He also has a multi-million dollar endorsement deal with Nike. It now looks like all of that is in jeopardy.
You can't rise above your character. It's a message I try to teach my children. We build our lives with the small decisions, when we choose to do the right thing even when no-one's watching; when we refuse to compromise on our principles; when we choose to value people over things; when we refuse to cheat - even on the little things. I'm not impressed by people with money or fame, I'm impressed by people with character.
How do you define success? Is it the car you drive; the house you own; the size of your bank account; the prestige of your position? It's so easy, then, to lose everything, isn't it? I've tried to redefine success for my own life. I believe that God created me for a particular purpose. Since I believe that, success for me is finding what God would have me do - and doing it. At the end of the day the most important thing to hear is "Well done, good and faithful servant..."
The people whom I have the greatest respect for through history are people who lived their lives to a standard unrecognized by many around them. I speak of people like Mother Teresa, William Wilberforce, Gandhi, Henri Nouwen and David Livingstone. I'm sure you could add to this list. Many of the names would be known only to a few because they have not sought out material rewards. It would be great to hear a few of these stories of "people of value" rather than the latest breathless report of a Tom Cruise sighting.
It was Albert Einstein who wrote, "Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value." That's the kind of legacy I would like to leave behind. No skeletons in the closet. No dirty little secrets to be ashamed of. I want to live my life so that I have no regrets; so that my children will be proud and not ashamed. How about you?