Came across a 2004 article from the Michigan Catholic, written by an Oblate priest, Fr. Ron Rolheiser, who is a famous theologian and authored award winning books. Since I could not reprtint the whole article I took the liberty of printing what I thought were the most important lines.
During the second half of life success no longer teaches us anything. It still feels good but we don’t learn from it. Now we learn more from failure. Several years ago I was homilizing on the “Martha and Mary” story, where Mary sits at the feet of Jesus doing nothing while her sister Martha is busy with all the necessary task of hospitality and serving. Martha asks Jesus to reprimand Mary for her inactivity but Jesus, in a now famous phrase tells her “MARY HAS CHOSE THE BETTER PART.” In my teaching I had quoted some pretty credible sources: Mother Theresa, Henri Nouwen, Jean Vanier, all of whom point out that we need to develop our sense of self-worth not from what we do, but from what we are, name from our innate dignity as human beings. WHAT WE ARE IS MORE IMPORTANT THAT WHAT WE DO. It’s dangerous to rely on achievement and success to feel good about ourselves. A man approached me after the service and asked me “Have you ever noticed that the people who tell us that it isn’t important to achieve anything are most great achievers? Mother Theresa has won a Nobel Prize; Henri Nouwen has written more than fifty books and receives invitations from all over the world. It’s easy, I suppose to feel good about yourself after you’ve done something; but how am I to feel good about myself when I have not done a thing to impress anyone?” He makes an important point, namely that there is a season for everything, including achievement and success. A healthy self image is just not handed to us on a platter. Part of our tasks as youths is to do the kinds of things that not only build up the world, but also help to build up ourselves. Some things in our first half of life are mandated; such as being in the work force; caring for our family; paying a mortgage; giving ourselves to serve others which also gives meaning to our lives. It isn’t our time then to just sit at the feet of Jesus. They why does success lose its importance in the second half of life? First, to rely on success to feel good about ourselves could be at some point like a cancer…then we have to continue this pattern (which is impossible to do). Too often success can inflate our ego rather than mellow the soul. Aging is a time for grieving, forgiving, letting go, accepting vulnerability, and moving beyond the greed, ambition, competitiveness, and perpetual disappointment of our youth. No longer do we need to prove anything in our second half of life; our task now is to become selfless beyond proving anything, least of all our own worth. A healthy dose of failure is helpful in teaching us this. Success always feels good but at a certain age it no longer works its magic. That does not mean it’s wrong to continue to be successful; IT ONLY IS WRONG WHEN WE NEED TO SUCCEED TO FEEL GOOD ABOUT OURSELF! (I love this article because it strikes a chord!! Especially the part about “elders” not having to prove our worth). Hope you also have a new insight from Fr. Ron’s article! May our God continue to have His/Her way with all of us!