Ours is a world fueled by likes, influence, followers, numbers, and appearances. We are consumed with ourselves and making ourselves known, heard and followed. It is easy for me to feel like I never quite measure up, depending on which way I turn. (And my devious device likes to remind me of this.) How am I really doing as a parent, in my relationships, at work, or at home?
Yet, how I think I am doing can fluctuate depending on the day and with whom I compare myself. Then the achiever in me tells me I just need to work hard, do things differently, or be different. I am conflicted and so I don’t always feel successful.
So how do I measure success in this kind of world?
Measuring Success in a Word
I was looking at the invitation for a key women’s conference– a conference for leaders. The description said it was “all about influence.” Today “influence” seems to be synonymous with being an effective leader. And of course a good leader wants to have influence or impact.
So, is this what I use to measure how I am doing– the amount of influence I have? But what if there seems to be little? What if I work hard but my numbers are low, the results are dismal, or I am not noticed? What if the grades are not great, the kids are misbehaving or the project does not turn out?
If the waves of the sea of success are pounding “influence” over and over again, I think I might sink.
Unfortunately, influence can be more about popularity, results, numbers, and resources, than about being the kind of person who has influence. Those who have more (of whatever) get noticed, and therefore have more influence.
No, “influence” is not the right word to measure success.
Likes and Follows.
These two household words have become a type of measuring stick in our world. Of course I should know better than to define myself or others by these hollow, superficial words! But with a simple click I give someone value.
It isn’t a new concept. It has always been “in” to be liked rather than not liked. Who doesn’t enjoy being noticed, appreciated or promoted? Measuring success in this way is elusive– hard to gauge and very unpredictable; for as quickly as it comes, it flies away.
Even though it seems natural, we have to work hard to not let “likes” and “follows” measure success either.
Faithfulness: A Better Word
I was at a point recently wondering, for a variety of reasons, if what I do really matters or makes a difference. It is too easy to feel like I might not be doing enough or investing in the right things. If I measure how I am doing by my results, what people say or how I feel, I don’t feel that successful.
I was reminded there is a better measure of success. Jesus said something. He said, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” (After the steward invested well the resources entrusted to him. See Matthew 25 for more details.). He didn’t say, “Well done, good influencer, well liked or appreciated one, or one who is making a name for themself.”
Jesus affirmed faithfulness.
I too want to affirm faithfulness in myself and in others as well.
I like faithfulness for a variety of reasons.
- Faithfulness is unique for each person– for each is unique in their gifting, resources, and talents. There is no reason to compare myself then.
- Faithfulness calls me to trust God. It reminds me that God is at work and has a different timetable than I may have.
- Faithfulness has perspective. It takes into account what really matters in life. It pushes me to remember the bigger picture and to seek things that are valuable and lasting, like love, kindness, self-control, patience, and humility.
- Faithfulness seeks God’s way over the world’s ways. This may mean choosing the less traveled path. I am not sure that “faithfulness” would get all the likes and follows.
Faithfulness in My World
What if I evaluated my time, my work, my family life with “faithfulness?” What would it look like to be a faithful person here? Life would be less about numbers and results, and more about being a certain kind of person. I would value being faithful with my husband and kids. This is not always glamorous either, but faithfulness goes a long way with these people– for the rest of their lives
I also wonder what life would look like if I sought to be faithful, instead of known, liked, or followed? I think faithfulness would help me to be more in the habit of caring for others than just being “all about” my platform, my influence, my likes… It would encourage me to be faithful in the mundane and little things. It isn’t just the big things that matter.
I need to encourage myself that faithfulness is success.
I also need to affirm faithfulness in others as well. Recently, Brian had been working on some things that seem to produce little results. My anxious self wanted to get uptight, worry or push him to “do more.” But at moments like these I want to choose faithfulness– reminding him of his own faithfulness in the task and of God’s faithfulness to him as well.
A Load of Success
Measuring my success with words other than faithfulness can be like trying to measure success in laundry for a family of six. You can’t really measure this well (trust me). There will always be more laundry to do. Laundry often goes unnoticed, unless of course there are no clean socks! It is very mundane, but it still matters. Yet as soon as I want to pat myself on the back that I have conquered the mound, it returns to me again. No, I don’t talk about success in laundry. It would be crazy to measure my success as a laundress by the number of items folded, the appreciation I receive, or the wash being “complete.”
In a similar way, measuring my personal success or “how I am doing” by anything other than faithfulness is not helpful and isn’t a true measurement, for it just leads to doubt, comparison, insecurity or even pride.
A “load” of success is more about one thing, and not so much about other things. No, it isn’t the influence I have. It isn’t in results. The numbers don’t really do it either or the big accomplishments. The paycheck is not it. None of those things make me successful.
It isn’t being liked, appreciated, or noticed that make me successful. It is faithfulness. It is faithfulness at home and faithfulness at work. It is faithfulness with my spouse, and with my children. I am not successful because I have done something big, people know my name or have a bunch of followers. It is being faithful in the day-to-day and in the unobserved little things.
It is in the giving generously, looking to the needs of others and being a blessing where God places me. It is getting the splinter out of a little hand, taking a kid to practice, sharing a meal with a neighbor and even in doing the laundry.