You Were Made for Greatness
I think there exists a deeper, truer meaning to greatness that unlocks us from the pressure to achieve and succeed and be the best.
Yesterday I wrote a piece about how the world insists you can be great.
And while that might be true for some people some of the time, if we are using the world’s metrics for “greatness” (aka, success, fame, wealth, etc) we have to be honest about the fact that those sorts of results simply aren’t in the cards for everyone.
And yet, I ended by saying that I still believe that you are made for greatness.
I say this because I think there exists a deeper, truer meaning to greatness that unlocks us from the pressure to achieve and succeed and be the best. And I think this deeper meaning of greatness frees us from thinking that only those who are doing “great” things in the world are doing great things.
Here’s how I think about greatness, and why I think you were made for it.
1. True greatness asks “What is good,” more so than “What is right.”
Anne Frank believed,
“Human greatness does not lie in wealth or power, but in character and goodness.”
What if greatness was more about how you treated people and less about, for instance, how many people work for you or admire you? Great individuals aren’t those who own the nicest things or have the most Instagram followers. Great people are those who treat others with respect and dignity.
In other words, great people are good people.
Jesus told anyone who would listen that if they wanted to be considered great in the Kingdom of God then their righteousness had to exceed that of the pharisees (Mt 5:19). The pharisees were known for getting it “right,” for following the laws above all else. Jesus insisted we focus on what is good, and if that contradicts with what is “right,” then our obligation is to the deeper heart of the matter.
Greatness is about character and goodness, and we all have the capacity to work on that.
2. True greatness is less about what you achieve and more about what you overcome.
An angel once told the young Mary that her soon to be born son would be great (Lk 1:32).
But let’s be honest, if we’re using Zig Ziglar’s concept of great, or Lewis Howes’ School of Greatness, then Jesus was a real failure. He had perhaps one dynamic year, amassed a decent following (but never made any money), and it all ended in a disastrous execution. So was Gabriel the angel wrong?
This is where Dorothy Height’s teaching on greatness comes in handy,
“Greatness is not measured by what a man or woman accomplishes, but by the opposition he or she has overcome to reach their goals.”
Jesus’ goal (as I understand it) was to call people toward a radical new way of living defined by love, grace, hospitality, and mercy. He faced opposition at every turn: family and friends betraying him, religious leaders questioning and undermining him, and the state viewing him as an enemy. Yet he stayed true to his goal of modeling a selfless love that refused to respond in violence.
So no, he didn’t have great success, or material wealth, and he surely wasn’t living his best life #yolo… but he did overcome massive opposition, and therefore, by Dorothy’s definition of the word, Jesus demonstrated true greatness.
3. True greatness emerges from humble service
It doesn’t get any more clear that Jesus’ idea of greatness looks nothing like the world’s than when he grabbed a small child (the most ignored, forgotten, overlooked demographic) and said, “if you want to be great, be like this child… whoever is the least among you is the greatest.”
Later, some of his friends — still missing the point — asked to have special places of prestige in Jesus’ upcoming rule. To which he responded with, “the greatest among you will be those who serve one another.”
Not everyone can achieve “greatness” by the world’s standards, I don’t care who’s book or course or training you take. But, according to Martin Luther King Jr, “Everybody can be great… because anybody can serve.”
There is a type of greatness that can only emerge from the lives of those who pay no attention to the spotlight, do not seek after glory or fame… those who give themselves to a life of service, a life of doing the small things with big love.
So, my friends, yes… you are made for greatness!
But let’s not get confused and think that if you’re not successful or wealthy or famous or living your best life that you are somehow doing it wrong.
Rather, may you come to see that a Great Life is characterized by:
treating people well and doing what is good,
overcoming the inevitable suffering in life, and
showing up to love others through humble service.
That sounds pretty great to me.
And you are made for it.