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The Worship of Success

December 28, 2019

Why do so Many People Feel They are Losers?

There are many religions in the world today. Many claim to be the one way to the ultimate goal. The ultimate goal being defined as eternal life, salvation, resurrection, rewards after death, or any of a lot of things. What they don’t always realize is that they, essentially, go for the same things. When all is said and done, everyone wants the same.

But not many people really worship exactly what their religion prescribes. They may worship their god but they also worship a great many of other things. This is called idolatry. Idolatry in the various holy books is frequently the worship of other gods. In reality the danger of idolatry lies more in the worship of things. Such objects of worship can be money, power or control. Even things normally considered negative can be worshiped, like hate or revenge. Devoting one’s life to the gaining of ever more power or to finally taking revenge is outright idolatry and should be recognized as such. One of the most dangerous objects of worship today is success.

Now what the heck is wrong with success, one might ask. Well, nothing. There is also nothing wrong with aspiring to better oneself. Obviously not. What is wrong is not to aspire but to worship. Perhaps it has something to do with jealousy. Seeing someone who is better than yourself and deciding to aspire to reach that same level is positive. It makes you better. But deciding you have got to be better is wrong.

Millions of boys grow up thinking ‘my dad is the best baseball player in the whole world’, or ‘my father is the best postman in the world’. It doesn’t matter what. Millions of boys and girls are raised with the thought that they have to be the best. The best. Second is nothing. Life is made a game for them, a match in which they HAVE TO WIN. Everything religion has to offer is changed to match, turned it into a travesty of what it could be, what is was meant to be. People use their sacred texts not to inspire themselves and others, but to lower and exclude others and get better themselves in comparison. I know not much of other sacred books but I am sure the same happens with them for people are more the same then most care to admit. I have seen a guy who belonged to a particular christian church say to another guy who belonged to another christian denomination: “you are not a true christian and therefore you will go to hell for eternity!” How could he? How is it possible that people condemn their fellow humans, their neighbors, their friends, their family, to eternal pain and punishment so easily, to ‘a lake of fire’, so gladly? “I will be saved and you not.” Is that really all there is to it? Is that all that religion has to offer us?

Not the great love affairs of the Bible are most quoted: David and Jonathan, the couple in the Song of Songs, but the harsh judging and banishing texts like the ones in Leviticus. It is in this set of mind, amongst other places, that the ‘loser’ was born. The one that did not win. People do almost anything not to be that one. Or they simply give up. We see it in the many contests, matches and the like that are so common in our societies. Everywhere, groups of people deciding who is the best.

I am a great lover of dancing. Classical – ballroom and Latin – dancing. A dance contest is to me a very beautiful thing. And of course I look more at the better couples. But what society’s attitude seems to be is to only look at the best couple, the top, and forget the rest. I want to know about all these others who worked so hard to dance the best they could. I see the frustration in the eyes of the couple that comes second. I hear them reasoning ‘well, at least we were in the first three’. I see the unnamed rest, already with their thoughts at the next contest where they get another chance.

Then it becomes clear to me. Not only do we need to be the best, we also have to be better than others. Why is this? Why can’t we be contented with the best we can be. As a TAO Counselor, I have answered dozens of mails of people who were setting unrealistic goals to themselves and of course failed to realize them. They felt they lost, that they were losers. They did not aspire to be the best they could be, they aspired to be better, always better than the rest. Logic dictates one has to be best. But it doesn’t have to stop there. Losing is not ‘not being the best’ but ‘not being the best you can’.

Why is that one word so powerful? Why can bullies instantly paralyze their victims with that one word, spoken with contempt? LOSER!! Who remembers being called that, the deadly word, and still knows what it felt like? How many people are scarred, damaged emotionally because of thinking that they are that? Losers? I think humanity loses, for making it possible that so many break, that so many just give up and never show themselves again. Mortally afraid of losing.

On TV, we see movies like Karate Kid. Some boy fights and tries hard and finally is the best. He is right and therefore he is victorious. In StarTrek, the Klingons have a ritual for deciding who lies and who speaks the truth. The opponents battle and whoever lives/wins, was apparently right. This is science fiction but it also reflects the real world to a frightening extent. Because whoever wins gets to be right. All through history, we see victors re-writing history.

Nearly everything in our culture is devoted to this. From all directions we get messages that we have to be the best. But it is a false image. In real life, crime syndicates win. Not all the time but still. In real life, Karate Kid could have been defeated quite easily. It doesn’t help to say: you will succeed, you will win if you try hard enough because it isn’t true. Well, maybe sometimes.

All those people out there who feel miserable and rotten because they feel like losers, please don’t! The value of a human being is not measured by how many games s/he wins, not by her athletic prowess, not by his grades in school. Not by the job she has…. No. The value of a human being just is. It is immeasurable, far more worth than mere money. It is a terrible waste every time a life breaks down. All people will die one day, that is the course of nature. But anything that stops people celebrating their lives is a loss. Please please please accept yourselves like you are now. You can always get better if you want to but please start with accepting yourself now. Then go and see what happens.