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Achievement and the Christian Life

Achievement and the Christian Life

By Elizabeth Corey

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” —James 1:17

If you are reading this essay, I can be sure of one thing: You have achieved something of significance, and you hope to do still more. You wish to write a book, start a company, help the poor and disadvantaged, become a doctor or lawyer, or make a scientific discovery. In contemporary parlance, you want to change the world and chase your passions.

Perhaps you will go to Washington, DC, and work on Capitol Hill or in a think tank; to Los Angeles to sell your screenplay; to New York to be an intern at the New York Times; or to Harvard to do that MD-PhD program you have been dreaming of. Or perhaps you will win the Marshall or Rhodes scholarships or be admitted to Juilliard.

Of course your parents and professors praise you for your success. We tell you that value is bound up with your personal excellence. We push you to do your best work, which we grade, criticize, and revise. Then we congratulate you when you win scholarships and gain acceptance to prestigious postgraduate internships and degree programs. Such glory reflects well on us, and we feature you on our university webpages and in glossy alumni magazines. We love to say that we placed you at Harvard or that you are now working at the Mayo Clinic or writing for the New Yorker.

But are you happy? Do you feel calm and fulfilled?

Or are you full of anxiety and perhaps even clinically depressed? Do you constantly feel inadequate, that past achievements quickly lose their meaning, and that you must always strive for the next accomplishment? Perhaps Albert Camus’ famous aphorism seems apt: “Every achievement is a burden. It compels us to a higher achievement.” Maybe you wonder when the cycle will end, when at last you will feel adequate, good enough, accomplished enough, and finally worthy of respect and love.

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