A Shallow Success…
At 61, I still do my fair share of planning…looking ahead, setting goals…even a little (sometimes a lot) of dreaming.
But honestly, I spend more time these days reflecting. Thinking about things I wish I had done differently…dealing with the scars of regret. Trying to wring some sort of wisdom or perspective out of life for me, my kids and anyone else who might read these ramblings.
Most of my working life has been spent in sales. Many people would call that career path “lying for a living.” Sadly, I know too many people who lend credence to that thought.
If you are going to be successful at anything…it has to grow from integrity…a sense of self and what’s right that is shaped by family, friends…but mostly faith. If you aren’t careful, if you disregard these values, the periphery of life can get really screwed…er…skewed. It can get skewed so much that those core values are lost…or at least well hidden. I see these things magnified in a sales career. I struggle with this disease. This distasteful anomaly. And yes…sometimes I even resemble the remark.
How something or someone looks is not often a good measure of what is really there. I’m not going to explain that…you know what I mean. Looks are skin deep…if that. As the saying goes appearances can be deceiving.
As believers, we are sometimes tempted to think the only people who are truly loving, giving and full of integrity are other believers. That is far from the truth. The fact is that God made man/woman (ALL men and women) in his image. If we just look we can see glimmers of godliness in most people. Not all the time…but enough to notice. More than enough for God to work with. More than enough for God to use us to reach them.
There are games we play in sales. Looking the part is one of them. How that plays out kind of depends on what you are selling…but we are likely to drive a certain kind of car, wear a certain type of watch. Join a health club, a gym or become a member of a country club to communicate “success” at some level. That alone doesn’t have to be an “integrity killer”…but it can be. Some take such a big bite outta this “faux” success they begin to develop a self-worth based on what they are able to “project” to people as opposed to what they really produce or who they really are. They develop a life strategy that breeds a life-style that demands (and relies on) a “threshold of success.” What I mean by that is the stuff that was always optional now MUST be in their lives for them to feel good about themselves and to keep up the “appearance” of success, whether they really have achieved success or not. In the name of appearing successful they make misguided sacrifices and excuses. They exercise bad judgement in the name of this false success … and in the name of success (and image) they often create an unintended consequence of financial disaster or worse, a failed or failing life. And it might just have started just by wanting to “look the part” to gain some sort of advantage in sales or stature. That is the integrity killer.
After many years of playing, I understand the game…but it’s a dangerous one. Perhaps it can be played without selling your soul… but it has to be played with great discernment. I wish I could say I play it well all the time. I don’t. And the consequences of collateral damage to yourself and your family are very painful. Trust me.
For the believer, the danger is transferring your sufficiency from God to stuff or to pride. From what God thinks of you and requires of you to do and to be…to what people think of and require of you. One path finds its measure in personal character…the other in “things” that fall away or get burned up in the end.
It might take a lot of therapy to uncover all the “whys?” of this behavior. As someone once said while surveying the mess they were in “I didn’t start here..but “here” is where I am now.” We don’t get to “here” in one decision. And if “here” is a bad place for you…chances are good that it was never your original destination. We didn’t wake up one day and decide that our life sucked and we were going to create a “make-believe” one. It’s a multitude of small decisions that gradually move you in a particular direction. But once you are headed that way, it can be very hard to turn around. Very hard…but it can be done. You can change priorities. You can choose to be content, to be honest, to be successful on God’s terms (whether the money and success follow or not..) You can lift God up in your life and see how God lifts you up in return. Again…it may have nothing whatsoever to do with material things. Because the “show” of your life and mine, should be evident to people by seeing “Christ in us.”
I’m not there…not even close… but I’m on the path…still too close to the edge for my own good…but moving toward the safety of the center of God’s will. How about you?