Never Measure Success

It’s Narcissist Friday!

(For My Grandchildren)

It has been my experience that many of the times I think I have done well few people seem to notice or acknowledge that success. Instead, much of the praise I have received has been from things that I thought could have been done much better. That, and my growing understanding of how the Lord operates in my life, suggests to me that I shouldn’t put a great deal of stock in success. In fact, I may not truly understand what success is.

If success is when I feel good about myself, I open myself to the flattery of manipulators. In the beginning of the narcissistic relationship, for example, the abuser may speak all kinds of praise. “You are so smart!” “You are so attractive!” “You are the best.” It feels good to hear someone suggest that you may be superior, or at least that you have done well.

These words resonate with our desires. We work to do well and appreciate praise. It makes us feel good about ourselves. Often, the words of praise are sincere and kind. Sometimes, they are meant to bind us to the abuser. Because they feel good, we want more of them. We open ourselves more and more to the manipulators until we can’t separate from them. And they give us just enough praise and appreciation to hook us.

After that, of course, the narcissistic relationship is anything but kind and supportive. The abuser becomes critical; in minor ways at first, but increasing in both frequency and severity. That criticism hurts us deeply because we have come to look to the abuser for affirmation. Like the drug dealer, the narcissist gives praise only for the purpose of creating and sustaining the addiction.

Now, this may sound contrary to much of what is normally taught, but I would suggest that we would benefit from not measuring or worrying about success. In other words, not be success-driven people. Instead, we should be content with doing whatever work is before us.

Boring. I know. We have been taught to measure success. We set goals and strive to accomplish great things. It makes life more fun, more exciting, and more fulfilling. What few acknowledge is that the drive to succeed often leads us to compromise both the work and our hearts. When success is the goal, and results are the measure, we can miss a lot.

Obviously, there is nothing wrong with seeking to do well. Nor is there anything wrong with trying to advance yourself in work or life in general. It is, in fact, an offering to the Lord to do our best with whatever is in front of us. Doing well, even seeking to do your best, is not the problem. The problem is measuring success according to worldly standards.

Are the rich somehow better people? Are those who rise through the ranks the best people in the company? Is the fastest or the strongest or the smartest the best? When I put it in those terms, success looks a little different. In fact, success often comes at the expense of others.

When we see success as the primary goal, we usually mean some kind of competition with others. But there are too many things involved in success for us to say that something or someone is best.

What is a successful life? Could someone be successful in life and be considered a failure by the world? I have heard people say that Jesus was doing great until He angered both the Jewish leaders and the Roman leaders. He failed His mission, they say, and suffered on the cross because of His failure. We know better, of course, but you see the point.

Your measure of success is the same. What you think of as failure may be only a step in God’s plan for you or others. It might not be failure at all. The Lord says He uses “all things for good” in our lives. That has to include our failures.

So, don’t worry about success. Just do what the Lord leads you to do, and trust Him for results.


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2 responses to “Never Measure Success

  1. Thanks Dave for clearly communicating this issue about success and failure… We so forget that we serve a sovereign God and it all hinges on His will His way His purpose in our life and as you say what’s required of us is to be obedient and do our best! Thanks again Dave for clear Communication in this matter!

  2. Sue

    one step at a time!

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