Dear Father Todd, regarding Father John’s post on “Give and Take” how does this combine with trying to be successful in a career, a type where if you do not make your accomplishments known, you will not advance?
Your question is a good one because when we are trying to faithfully follow Christ in a world where competition is fierce at times, it can seem like we are caught between a rock and a hard place: I want to follow Christ and have a successful career. Christ tells us in John’s Gospel that we are in the world but not of it (cf Jn 15:19); that is, that we have to live and work in it but that we don’t adopt its godless ways. It is a challenge for us.
First, Christ is calling Christians to have the attitude of self-detachment. What do I mean by this? I mean it in a two-fold way. There is nothing wrong with recognizing the gifts and talents we have received from God for the good of others and in having them recognized by others- unless we are bragging in an arrogant way- but our identity should never be based on this recognition. We are first and foremost sons of God by adoption. This is our primary identity. Also, we need to have an attitude of gratitude realizing that God is the Author of all that we have received and we are called to use our gifts and talents wisely but in a detached way. We need this spirit of detachment so as not to allow our abilities or duties to interfere with our union with God and cloud a proper vision of the human person. With our fallen human nature often the tendency is to let success and money replace God. St Luke tells us in Lk 16:13 that we can’t serve both God and money.
Second, we need to foster purity of intention in all our actions and achievements. This is hard at times as we can easily find ourselves doing things out of pride or vanity. To maintain purity of intention we need increase our union with Christ through prayer, sacrament (Eucharist and Confession) and self-examination (examination of conscience). These means help us to always give our best by putting our talents and gifts at the service of God and others. They also help us not to become self-centered, not to use others for personal gain and not to think we can do it without God’s help. A person with purity of intention is committed to God and to the common good. He doesn’t seek rewards.
Third, we need to be humble. Humility doesn’t mean weakness; it means recognizing that God is in charge, that He is God and I am not. All too often, people can live as if there was no God and can do atrocious things to others (ie: slander, calumniation, criticizing, etc) to get ahead in a career or because the other got the job and they didn’t. The competitive spirit is good but never at the cost of charity. As a Christian we can never stoop to those levels just mentioned. We may also experience our own sufferings along the path of life due to others who will try to get ahead at all costs, who will try to trample us underfoot or undermine our efforts. We need to be humble and upright before God and others and let our integrity speak. Humility helps us not to compromise faith and morals and to avoid deceiving ourselves.
With these three essential points that can help us to work hard on our career choice, keep God at the center of who we are and all we do and maintain a healthy consciousness of using all that God has blessed us with personally for the good of ourselves and the good of those we serve.
Yours in Christ, Father Todd Arsenault, LC