Well, in today’s selection from Compassion and Self-Hate, we have a secular explanation for why not to pursue greatness. It’s psychologically self-harmful. This means the Virtue of Humility actually leads to better mental health!!
Hello Readers, hope all’s well. Time for another #shorts post.
Today’s quick tidbit is about the folly of pursuing greatness. Jesus warns us a few times in the Gospels about not pursuing greatness. He taught us by word and example we should be Humble, and not seek power and authority over others.
In today’s quote, from Compassion and Self-Hate by Dr. Theodore Rubin, we learn another reason pursuing greatness is bad. The focus on greatness is actually harmful to our mental health!! It’s an interesting perspective from the secular science world that complements the Gospels. Read on to find out more.
Not what Jesus Taught
Today let’s start out with the words of Jesus before we move on to the book quote. Today’s Scripture comes from Luke 22, when the Disciples argued about who was the greatest. That’s when Jesus enlightened them that only the world wants power and authority. But Jesus came to show us a different way, and things will be different for everyone who follows Him. In verse 26 He says “But that’s not the way it will be with you. Instead, the greatest among you must become like a person of lower status and the leader like a servant.”
In other words, Jesus was not concerned one bit with meaningless and temporary worldly power. All His followers are meant to follow His example (though many Christians have failed in this). Worldly power and authority should not be any concern of ours. We were taught to pursue Spiritual power, through the Virtue of Humility, among others.
We should always be looking for how we can take the last place in the various situations in our life. We should never be concerned with how we can be the greatest. Jesus repeatedly corrected Disciples throughout the Gospels for wanting to be the greatest. We must pay attention to His correction and stop chasing greatness.
Let’s read from Scripture. Here’s Luke 22:24-27.
(24) An argument broke out among the disciples over which one of them should be regarded as the greatest.Luke 22:24-27 (CEB)
(25) But Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles rule over their subjects, and those in authority over them are called ‘friends of the people.’ (26) But that’s not the way it will be with you. Instead, the greatest among you must become like a person of lower status and the leader like a servant. (27) So which one is greater, the one who is seated at the table or the one who serves at the table? Isn’t it the one who is seated at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.
A Secular, Scientific View
In today’s quote from Compassion and Self-Hate, we have a secular reason why not to seek greatness. It’s psychologically self-harmful. This means the Virtue of Humility actually leads to better mental health!! The reason for this is (and I’m paraphrasing and shortening a lot of Dr. Rubin’s book), being fixated on greatness leads to disappointment and self-hatred when we inevitably screw up and fall short.
We’re all human, we all make mistakes and we all have human limitations. We’re capable of a great many things, but we also make a great many mistakes and we all fail in our good goals sometimes. Failure is inevitable, because failure is human. If we’re obsessed with greatness, it causes severe mental pain when we fall short of our high standard. And we all will.
Take a look at this quote from Compassion and Self-Hate. This selection is ironically amusing since he points out the folly in any country (in this case the U.S.) fixating on being great. The book was published in 1975, long before former U.S. president Trump’s 2016 campaign. In the same way pursuing greatness is a mistake for individuals, it’s a mistake for a country too. Interesting to hear this viewpoint coming from a 46-year-old book.
Superlatives very often indicate perfectionistic drives of ruthless magnitude. Fortunately, they can serve as signposts in giving us insights about what we demand of ourselves and others so that we can constructively re-evaluate. I am tired and frankly chagrined when I hear politicians speak of greatness and say that “America must be great.” It is much more important to be “human.” It is much more important for America to consist of people who struggle and who accept human possibilities in all their ramifications. The business of “being great” is invariably linked to some of the worst aspects of self-hate, the kind that generates arrogance and contempt for one’s actual self, for others and for the real human condition generally.Theodore Rubin, Compassion and Self-Hate, Page 168
Besides the psychological self-harm, the quest for greatness harms others too. We become willing to run over everyone in our path in our misguided mission to be the greatest. It goes without saying that an attitude of “reach the top at all costs, no matter if you hurt others” contradicts our duty to practice Christian love. So it’s bad for a person, and bad for a country to have being the greatest as the goal. It hurts us, and it hurts others. For Christians, it stops us from following Christ’s teachings.
Don’t worry about greatness. The greatest among us will be a servant. Let’s worry about how we can be good Christian servants like that.
And do remember what Dr. Rubin says about superlatives. Having too-high standards like being the “greatest,” “best,” “biggest,” or whatever else causes psychological pain when we fall short of those goals. One more reason to listen to Jesus on this—don’t seek greatness.
Today we heard from the secular as well as Jesus: don’t think about being the greatest, don’t pursue that goal. Jesus taught us that’s not the way. If that wasn’t enough, now we know from Compassion and Self-Hate it’s a goal that harms us rather than helps us.
That’s it for #shorts Part 23.
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Until next time, be strong and do good!
Your new best friend in Christ,
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