As Thanksgiving approaches, I’ve been wondering why we all possess a tendency to become so dazzled with ourselves whenever we encounter success. Perhaps the wisdom we need to understand such foolishness lies in the biblical story about Lucifer.
According to Scripture, God covered Lucifer with all sorts of precious gems and stones. Lucifer was God’s most magnificent angel. And as the anointed Cherub, Lucifer was the angel closest to God. Nevertheless, Lucifer’s own brilliance was simply a reflection of God’s glory. Yet, it was also Lucifer’s magnificence that led him to the pride and ambition that caused his fall.
If you are fortunate enough to have been born with natural good looks, consider how much you had to do with your appearance. Your parents and God created you. Consequently, you probably just resemble your mother and father. In addition, you likely depend on other people’s talents to design and to make the nice clothes you like to wear, which compliment whatever body type and good features you might have.
If you ever endured braces to improve your smile, did your parents or someone else pay for them? Even if you paid for them yourself, didn’t you need the orthodontist’s skill and knowledge to ensure that you were not stuck with teeth you didn’t like?
Attractive actors and entertainers often serve as the prime examples of the shallow self-importance that one’s physical appearance can inspire. How many of them have inflated images of themselves? So many entertainers manage to get involved in one crusade or the other, pontificating about social causes and usually oozing hypocritical self-righteousness. But what possesses them to feel so qualified?
Their fame and notoriety is an ironic result of the ultimate deception. By pretending to be someone else through the roles they portray, attractive actors and actresses achieve their glory. They essentially live in a world of make believe. They generally rely on the talents and skills of other people `` `who produce the scripts and characters that they, the actors, play. They also depend on other professionals to accentuate their physical appearances with make-up or cosmetic surgery. That so many entertainers have become completely deceived and smitten by the flattery and adoration of a limitless supply of naive people is a sad reality.
Like natural beauty, athletic talent is another gift that can wreak personal havoc. Natural athletic ability often gives individuals an inflated image of themselves. But what do athletes have to do with the genetics they receive from their parents? In addition, much of their success depends on the right people around them, mentors and other athletes who help them to hone their unique skills or to best employ their natural abilities. It is often other people (family, teammates and opponents) who supply the inspiration an athlete needs to excel. So once again, great athletes simply reflect many other people in their lives.
But how many times do we see great athletes self-destruct, brought down by their own arrogance? How often do they take too much credit for their natural ability or shamefully discredit their staunchest rivals who have pushed them to excel?
Our greatest intellectuals and musicians struggle with similar challenges of remaining modest and grateful to those who have inspired them to shine. The world’s most powerful nations and empires have also stumbled over lavishing themselves with too much credit.
With a plethora of examples to learn from, why is it that too many of us still get so puffed up whenever we enjoy a little success?
We don’t have to be celebrities or athletes to behave so foolishly either. All of us are guilty of the same vanity from time to time.
Each one of us owes most of what we are to someone else, and ultimately to God. We become only as smart as He allows, and we run only as fast as He permits.
At the height of our lives, He has designed us to stay there for only so long. Time will eventually take its toll on the most beautiful, the most athletic, and the most brilliant among us.
All of us could afford to strive harder to remain humble and thankful whenever we meet with success. We all begin with basically nothing. We are modest, hungry, and coachable. If we could simply maintain those attributes, we would surely cherish our successes even more. We need to be honest and to give thanks to those who make our successes possible -- especially content to give God the glory. It simply belongs to Him anyway.