Someone has said, “Success knows no strangers while failure has no friends.” On first reading it seems to be a fairly accurate observation. We do tend to applaud those who succeed and shun those who have failed. Society gives the limelight to those who have done extraordinarily well, yet it hardly gives a footnote to those who have not met public expectations. The friendship factor favors the successful. We clamor for companionship from those who can teach us how to be winners. We are indifferent to those who have allowed life to lose its zest. Business, politics, entertainment, and sometimes even religion focus upon beautiful people who appear to be bright and successful. Therefore our beginning statement seems to have some validity.
On the other hand, however, the issue of success and failure may be as much a matter of perception as reality. If we perceive ourselves to be successful, most likely we will have a more exuberant personality. Yet, if we perceive ourselves to be failures most likely we will be inhibited and withdrawn. From this perspective neither success nor failure is as much a matter of numbers as it is a matter of attitude. Successful people who have lost the challenge of achievement feel like failures. People who have failed are sometimes motivated to survive their setbacks and focus their sights on higher goals. In many ways we are who we think we are and we do well not to think more highly or lowly of ourselves than we ought.
The scripture’s definition of success and failure does not conform to the world’s dictionary. From the world’s viewpoint Jesus did not look successful as He hung on the cross. At one point He may have felt failure and forsaken by God. Yet, as He moved through those moments of horror and put it all in God’s perspective, He punctuated His achievement with the words, “It is finished.” His assignment was over. He had participated in Life’s most successful event.
The apostle Paul did not feel he had arrived at any great level of distinction, but he pressed on to the goal and the prize of his high calling in Christ Jesus. He had a success mentality that encouraged him to do all things through Christ who strengthened him. He would not allow himself to be defeated by harassment, persecution, or pain.
Here we sense that real success is a matter of commitment while failure is a lack of it. Perhaps we can construct a new saying, “Success is a stranger to those who allow failure to defeat them.” Where are you on the scale of productive living?