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Chapter Fifteen - Spiritual Success
SUCCESS used to be regarded as a question of conditions and things in the world around. It was frequently said to be a matter of money alone. We were told that "nothing succeeds like success," and that "business is business," as much as to say, the end justifies any means we may see fit to adopt.
Many people may still be inclined to believe that this is the ruling motive, inasmuch as the profiteer is constantly mentioned in the public press. Yet success has become largely psychological, and profiteering itself depends on the popular mind. There is no longer success in general. The man himself is the greatest factor: his starting-point, the obstacles he has to overcome, the methods he has employed, the services rendered, the motives which prompted him. What we long for is success that befits us as men and women, according to our type and the kind of work we choose. We desire success that endures, that makes us free and independent. Such success presupposes the art of life. It is for all who are eager and thoughtful. Success may spring from any conceivable beginning, in any environment.
Success must of course include adaptation to the world in so far as we are led to co-operate with people where they are. We always measure success in part by wage-earning power. We still speak of men who have not "made good," when no financial rewards are forthcoming. But we can no longer single men out as representatives of what we mean by success merely because they have made money. Success is manifold, and we judge by varied standards according to our interest in life. The Salvation Army has faithfully informed the world that "a man may be down, but he's never out." Mere failure is not a test. "It is what man would do that exalts him."
There is a sense in which success cannot be said to have been achieved by society unless all classes share in it. Hence we take little interest in schemes for social revolution in behalf of one class simply. It is surely not a question of "the privileged classes" or favored individuals said to be "lucky" from birth. It is not a question of individuals or classes but of man as a social being, man thinking, willing, doing, living, rounding out his days in the power and beauty of accomplishment.
To say that success cannot be measured by worldly standards alone is not to plead for a spiritual life by which people console themselves who have failed in the world. Mundane life is of course incomplete, and we anticipate compensations in the future because of efforts which have not yet borne fruits. The spiritual life is always a consolation in a way. But we no longer underrate success in the world as a way of praising people who adopt the spiritual ideal. A failure here would be a failure in the future Life, too. It is not a mere matter of "rewards." There are conditions to be met wherever we are. Life is for success. We have not lived if we have failed in our central undertaking. We have merely served an apprenticeship.
Success is adaptation to life as it comes to us from within. What makes life "worthwhile," as we say, is found through appreciation of the work given us to do, through response to our better nature. Success is never a mere game in which we get the better of our neighbor, whatever the world may assume on this point. Success is for higher self-realization. We have no rivals in the work we can do best. We feel dissatisfied simply because we have not yet accomplished our individual purpose--not because the world has failed us.
Sometimes indeed there is inward success in an undertaking accounted a failure by observers.
One may succeed in doing work for which one is not fitted, by sheer persistence in sticking to it. Some people wait many years before beginning their true work. Yet the real value of these secondary victories is seen in the use we make of the power acquired by meeting obstacles and then transferring our activities to some work that is to our liking. We may not judge merely by the vocation a man is now pursuing, by his profession, salary, profits, or even by his reputation in the community. For success involves the varied relationships of the inner life, and these are not apparent to the public eye. The man who knows himself understands what his work is doing for him, and how his life may be turned to higher account. We no longer praise people for mere resignation in accepting life's hardships and illnesses. We now look for the affirmative attitude.
Those of us who do fairly well in everything we undertake are deemed "lucky." But luck implies that there is a fortunate combination of circumstances more powerful than the man himself, who merely receives what comes, while others must work hard. Behind the scenes he who has really succeeded has been working as hard as anyone. The world often sees the finished result only, unaware of the years of incessant effort by which inner victories have been won and outward obstacles have been overcome. What we need to know is the inner history behind the alleged luck. There was an intelligible reason in every ease, and no mere chance at all. There was alertness in meeting occasions, readiness in responding to opportunities which others did not take but might have taken. The man of character who "always lands on his feet" has acquired a certain art of rising to occasions. Then, too, we need to remind ourselves that there is Divine guidance prompting men from within, hence a spiritual law in events seemingly coming by chance.
Life offers us opportunities amidst law, order, system, and if we do not ignore or try to defeat life we move steadily forward. Life favors the man with true self-reliance. Life is for righteousness whatever skeptics may say to the contrary. Usually the one who complains that others are lucky is trying to force life to flow in some other channel. The pessimist would like to dictate terms to the universe. The optimist marvels at the order and beauty of things as they are.
This would be a mere platitude if men were not trying to get something for nothing. The time comes when people realize the great truth that every action brings its own reward, and that no one is excluded however unlucky he may seem to be. Then they learn that it is not true that "honesty is the best policy" because it "pays," but because honesty is right in itself. It is no longer a question of anything that simply "pays," but of that which preserves moral integrity and is right for all concerned. No mental device can secure for us a real success that is not deserved. What we need to make sure of in the first place is that we have something worth- while to give the world. The more we have to give the less we need think of the reward that is coming to us.
In the world it is said of course that the conditions of life are hard, that one must live, and hence in the intense competition one is justified in adopting any method that may be in vogue. But this would not be success but surrender. To succeed we should expect to find a place and a work for ourselves, whatever the conditions. To surrender mentally is to weaken in life as a whole. But life calls for the affirmative attitude.
Some say that life is too short to succeed both in developing character and in earning a competency. Then let us decide in favor of character-building. But the saying is not true. The affirmative attitude strengthens us to believe that whatever is for us to do we will be able to do. We need not try to evade or put off anything that is right. Let us rather seek to live the truly complete life, regarding every apparent obstacle or handicap as an opportunity for success. We need not ask for more time or for favorable conditions. Time is ours and the conditions we need just now are at hand.
Success used to be judged by the amount of "push" with which an enterprise was launched. This type of activity was fostered by urging one's point at any cost, by clever advertising to create a demand, by seizing every opportunity to follow up an advantage to the limit. It was ingenious, competitive, often unscrupulous and disagreeably persistent. It could secure the sale of an inferior article. We all bought goods we did not want, before we understood the psychology of success. Now we know that the less value there is in a thing the more enterprise must be put into it to try to make us buy. It still "pays to advertise," but there are things that advertise themselves. It is a question of quality and of permanent value.
There is a sure road to success through honesty and steady persistence in right doing, with something to do for the world, or something to give to the world, even though results are not at once apparent. From this point of view financial rewards are signs but not the only evidences of success. There are many forms of moral success which bring no rewards in money at all, for instance, deeds of heroism in the case of a disaster at sea like the sinking of the Titanic. The true hero does not even ask for thanks, although he likes appreciation which shows insight into the law of service. Then, too, there is success by adaptation to nature in the case of explorations and discoveries. A part of the art of life consists in ability to meet changing conditions, all kinds of weather and hardships, when our work calls us into the various parts of the world. In a sense, adaptation to nature through the development of a sound mind and body, through due amount of exercise, rest, sleep and triumphant health is the basis of every other type of success.
Again, there is success through fidelity to friends, in the preservation of home-life at its best, the conservation of true marriage, fidelity to a high ideal of love and truth and of a great cause. All such successes are measured by their own invisible rewards. Only he who gives abundantly receives in large measure. These successes become ends in themselves, while our external life is regarded as means only or as secondary.
If all worthy successes contribute to what we call spiritual success, let us agree that resignation is not in any sense the ideal. Not by mere self-effacement or self-sacrifice can we give our best to the world. What we need is strong belief in the triumph of the right, the beautiful, the true, together with consecration to do our part, to devote ourselves to our work. It is not a question of what we give up but of what we manifest. The more fully we give ourselves in the direction in which we can give best, the more we shall possess of the joys and opportunities which stand for fulness of life.
To start with the idea of God as all-encompassing Spirit, with the universe regarded as existing for spiritual ends, is to accord spiritual things the first rank from beginning to end, hence to see that spiritual success is the one real success. As spirits we have a two-fold relationship, one in the spiritual world to the more direct activities of the Divine life; and one in the natural world where as dwellers in the flesh we take on the conditions that come to us by birth. It is on the Divine side that we draw from the great resources which bring success over external obstacles. What seems impossible outwardly becomes possible from within.
We have the power of the Spirit within us to rise above circumstances through insight into their meaning for the soul. The whole life-situation is changed for us when we grasp the inner point of view. We then see the spiritual transforming and expressing itself through the natural. What once seemed a hardship now proves to be an opportunity. Our external conditions prove adverse only so long as we regard them negatively. True success always grows out of the
affirmative attitude. True success is for the individual and for society at the same time. There is no conflict ultimately speaking between self-realization and service. For true success is based on the higher truth of man's being. It implies the inspiring idea that there is but one Power in the universe and that this power is manifested in a world-order which makes for spiritual success.
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