Monday, September 30, 2013

The False Focus on Goals and Achievement

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Ecclesiastes 4

King James Version (KJV)
So I returned, and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun: and behold the tears of such as were oppressed, and they had no comforter; and on the side of their oppressors there was power; but they had no comforter.
Wherefore I praised the dead which are already dead more than the living which are yet alive.
Yea, better is he than both they, which hath not yet been, who hath not seen the evil work that is done under the sun.
Again, I considered all travail, and every right work, that for this a man is envied of his neighbour. This is also vanity and vexation of spirit.
The fool foldeth his hands together, and eateth his own flesh.
Better is an handful with quietness, than both the hands full with travail and vexation of spirit.
Then I returned, and I saw vanity under the sun.
There is one alone, and there is not a second; yea, he hath neither child nor brother: yet is there no end of all his labour; neither is his eye satisfied with riches; neither saith he, For whom do I labour, and bereave my soul of good? This is also vanity, yea, it is a sore travail.


I was taking a walk, more like a stroll in the park the other day and noticed all these people dressed in running gear and you know those expensive exercise outfits with the special cloth that wicks off sweat, and everyone had pedometers, and were either running or walking like ducks--speed walking and I thought to myself, "Doesn't anyone ever take a walk or stroll anymore to enjoy it?" "To walk past the scenery and just take it in?" I told a friend, "Everything is goal and achievement oriented now!'

When I had to move some years ago going from a working class rural community to one that is more affluent, there was a little culture shock along the way. I suppose I never will get used to this outlook on life. Where life has become like a spread sheet of numbers, the perfect health, the perfect home, the perfect lines drawn, running around like crazy, trying to impress other people. Some of these types would tell me I am lazy or too busy smelling the roses, but someone from overseas who wrote online, "Americans have forgotten how to enjoy life!", were definitely on to something. The whole trend of bucket lists, which seem to be for the ultimate rich who can buy all the travel and special experiences kind of makes me laugh. Question these things, and ask yourself WHO ARE THEY TRYING TO IMPRESS? "FOR WHOM DO THEY LABOUR?" God doesn't care if you visited 50 foreign countries or if you can cook a soufflé.


[The Ultimate Bucket List]

Everything is goals and achievement oriented now. Everything is about "bettering" yourself, and well if you get left in the dust with financial, health or other problems, well its a game you have lost. This was part of my false upbringing within my non-Christian family, only the achievers mattered, so if you lost a job, did not obtain the upper middle class, or have a perfect body, you did not matter It didn't matter if you got through college or worked, only the cash at the end mattered.

 The head matriarchs, would write holiday letters and most of the focus of the conversation was bragging about the various straight A students, Eagle Scouts, corporate risers and everyone else was rendered non-people.  What happens to people's identities in such a world?  You are rendered a failure and tossed away.  Your very definition as a person comes about from how good of a carrot on a stick chaser you are and based on how many carrots [carats?] you have caught. Trust me in such a system, one job loss or health problem renders you as a non-human to such types. One told me that I had "nothing to show" for my life, and yes they were thinking totally of material possessions. Some may be shocked I did this, but I wrote them a letter stating that "ultimate success" in our human life is becoming a born again Christian and this is a free gift of salvation not by works, but that is basically what real success and having something to show for one's life was about. This was ignored.

Here is a place where Christians need to define themselves according to God. Even being a Christian may bring sacrifice on the power and financial front.  I talked about those who sell out the other day. So many television shows and societal institutions push the messages of goals and achievement, the seeking of power, money and prestige. Even the show "Breaking Bad" which was the latest "hot" thing, had this chemistry teacher going to make and sell meth so he would become rich and leave money for the family. This show to me definitely pushed the idea of sociopathic situational ethics, responding to a wicked world by becoming more evil. So much is about status, getting over, and life as one giant resume of goals and achievements, that people are crossing those lines now all the time.



Are goals a bad thing? No, there is a place for this stuff, but what if they are everything to people? What if conversation always is around what have you done or accomplished lately? Life as a tally sheet of possessions owned and even numbers of friends, contacts and networks gets depressing. This is the stuff where I did want to escape the culture I live in. This is why you see so many people running around like crazy, with every spare minute filled with some activity. These types don't even let their children have any free time. There is no thinking when every spare minute someone is on the go. There would be no thinking about God, prayer or self introspection. I have met people who even tell me they do not have time for friends. One man I know locally has a wealthy corporate girlfriend who he told me has not had a friend in years. Something is very sad and wrong about all that.

This guy is right about America even if he is wrong about other things including the money thing:

"Despite all the false positivity, I find Americans to be generally the most stressed out and unhappiest people on the planet. Despite all the resources, and all the money they have, they are sadder than people I know who can barely make ends meet in other countries, but still know how to live in the moment.

This rush to the finish line, to have your book published, or to have a million dollars in your bank account or to get that promotion, and to have that consume your life is something I find really sad."

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It stressed me out seeing these people unable to even enjoy a walk. To me this is the type of stuff I feel totally out of tune with, people running with no end on the hamster wheel of status.  People chained to the treadmill who don't look up and ask what life is really for. The stress, fear and anxiety is massively growing and considering the Bible verses above, there is definitely a reason for it!

I believe Satan is having a heyday with all this focus on goals, achievement and status. Think about how everything from TV shows, to self help books focus on goals. One is told they can "find themselves" or "cure depression" if they just set some goals and achieve. If one does all "the right and perfect things" supposedly they can obtain a perfect body that works right. Supposedly to this world if you follow an endless check list, you can solve every problem on your own, and achieve wealth, perfect health and popularity. Those who haven't are told how much is wrong with them on a daily basis, with the stigmas piling up.

 Everything is about reaching targets that the powerful or the bosses have set!  Even the Purpose Driven life and "Best Life" now stuff has this as the focus, the acquiring of goals and status in this world. Let's just say someone sacrificing for the gospel and being a possible martyr, doesn't have a full 401 K. The apostles did not have lovely giant homes or fancy chariots, as they were out preaching the gospel instead.

Think about how all this focus on goals and status even leads people to unethical behavior. If the full measurement of man is to achieve, some of them are going to step on a few others moving up the ladder. I even told someone the value system of my family did not match my own, as others were to be left in the dust and ground down, as one climbed up the mountain. It sickens me now how those who were more vulnerable or poor were treated.  I sometimes find myself thinking this is why things are growing more mean in our society. Other people are not there as companions, or friends, but as wholly competition. People in line in front of you, are just seen in the way. This is why the wicked are ascending in society too, in other words those willing to commit evil, in a corrupt society are the ones who climb higher.

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Some forget about what the Bible tells us! In the world successful automatically means GOOD while down and out or "unsuccessful" means BAD. Of course the Bible tells us otherwise! Of course what matters if someone is born again, a millionaire who is born again will see heaven compared to the one who is poor and has rejected Jesus Christ, but the world lies about what SUCCESS in this life really is about.

Luke 16:19-31

King James Version (KJV)
19 There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day:
20 And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores,
21 And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.
22 And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;
23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
24 And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.
25 But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.

Think too here now of all the people in America, who are depressed, despondent, resentful, upset, angry that they did not achieve an endless variety of goals or who do not hold any status. What floats the boat of envy down to the river of hell? How many have gone to the depths of despair over being "failures". How many have cried tears because they did not become "somebody" by the world's standards or who even had a higher achieving family reject them? So much pain in society comes from the oppressions mentioned in the verses above, and it's interesting it mentions the ones with power that oppress but who have no comforter [no Holy Spirit!]

The consumerist culture runs on unmet desires, and this is where greed and avarice grows too. I think of how many have judged those for not acquiring certain things, status or a fancy resume. What God thinks is what should matter. Some think they will acquire heaven based on their goodness via the standards of the corporate and elite masters, it's not going to happen. We see this stuff in the church system, everything about the numbers, the name, the fame. God defines "perfection" far differently then the world does.

Ecclesiastes 7:20 - For [there is] not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not.

2 comments:

FaithGuy3 said...

[I]Matthew 6:25 Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?
Mat 6:26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
Mat 6:27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?
Mat 6:28 And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
Mat 6:29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
Mat 6:30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?
Mat 6:31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
Mat 6:32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
Mat 6:33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
Mat 6:34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.[/I]

Marion said...

LOVE that portion of Scripture...especially this part of the companion texti Luke 12:32

"Fear not little flock; for iis your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom."...

So tender...no? I find it incedibly comforting!