I struggle with feeling like I’m made for something greater. Should I be happy the way I am or strive for something else?
Thank you for writing in and asking a wonderful question. Your honesty and self-awareness is commendable and really impressive. (Also, bravo for making your inquiry nice and short! May your brevity be a lesson to us all.)
To your question:
Both of your sentences can be taken two ways. And as I read and reread your inquiry, I found that my thoughts varied greatly depending how you meant (or I interpreted) a single word. Everything pivots around this word and to be honest, it’s a word I’ve wrestled with personally for many years:
What does it mean to be great? If I’m being honest and letting the little man that lives in my heart answer (by the way, his name is Insecurity, maybe you’ve met?), if insecurity answers, the idea of being great means being known, being famous, having money, being admired, affirmed, liked—and the list goes on. Those things are the drugs of my soul, and if I’m not careful—addiction will win.
Conversely, and on my good days, being great feels a lot like loving my family well, seeing more deeply how God designed me, serving the world outside of me, and finding significance in that which is real.
Less, what does being great look like for you? What were you really asking in your question?
For so many, the quest to be great is about a desire to be someone or something they’re not. A few weeks ago, a very nice man came up to me and said some kind words about The RELEVANT Podcast. Additionally, as he talked about the different guests that had been on the show, he said, “Oh man, you had Bob Goff on! I love Bob—I just want that guy’s life!”
Hearing that man say that made me sad. Because while Bob is a lovely man who admittedly does live a very interesting and impactful life, it’s also a life that’s—well—Bob’s. It’s not for you and me. It’s Bob’s existence. Part of me wanted to believe the man I was chatting with really meant, “I want to be able to love people well and learn from Bob’s wisdom in that area,” yet, what he was really saying was, “I’d like to be someone else.”
Learning to be great, at its very core, is an exercise in facing inward. It’s an exercise in knowing who you really are. And it’s often a painful process of chipping away at the plaque that is covering the truth of what God sees as valuable about you.
Which begs the question, what does God see as valuable—as great? Here’s a list:
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23).
When we think of the word great, my hope is that we (and yes, I’m including myself in this) don’t think of things like fame, fortune, being liked or even of doing something the world remembers. My hope is that our view of greatness is directly proportional to how joyful we are; how kind and good we are; how loving and in control of our emotions we are. In short, how the fruits of our spirit are on display.
Less, what if instead of thinking about our next vocational, world changing, culture making move—what if you and I took a serious inventory of how the people around us are affected by our lives. Am I truly seeking Jesus? Do my kids respect me? Does my wife know she’s valued? Do my friends know I care for them? Do I even have friends?
Which leads us, finally, to your actual question: “Should I be happy the way I am or strive for something else?”
I know what you’re asking, because I ask myself the same question—frequently. I’m guessing you feel a deep realization or belief that something is coming—something that will be more fulfilling vocationally, relationally, even spiritually.
I’m familiar with that internal narrative: I got married because I knew spending a life with Brianne would be a great and refining thing. I also felt that feeling when I took a job with IJM, because I knew the work would be immensely fulfilling and honoring to how God has equipped me.
However, I also felt destined for greatness when my crappy college band played our first show (to literally nobody) and I had dreams of rock-stardom. And I felt that feeling of “something greater is coming” when I joined the podcast and my Twitter account blew up. Yuck. See the difference? One definition of striving toward greatness is born from God moving me—and one is born out of a need that’s far from God’s design.
Greatness can be defined by God calling you to something wonderful and new. Or, it can be you trying to define yourself by making mini-gods out of things that will never really leave you feeling that great.
My hope is that we start to realize we were great the moment we were born. Even Bob Goff, Billy Graham and Mother Theresa aren’t great because of what they’ve done—they’re great because of who they are.
“You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).
You be you, Less. The greatness is already there.
Still Not a Rock Star,
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Eddie Kaufholz is a writer, speaker and podcaster and serves as a director of church mobilization for International Justice Mission. He also hosts and produces "The New Activist" podcast. You can find on Twitter @EdwardorEddie.