The dictionary defines "success" as "The accomplishment of an aim or purpose." I suppose that is what most people consider "success". Very few, however, think about whether or not their "success" is good or bad. Consider, for instance, a bank robber who conceives, plans, and executes a robbery. He gets away with lots of money. Success! Except I think we're all clear that this success is not a good success. As such, it is a failure when aiming at anything good. Key, then, to genuine success -- achieving a good aim or purpose -- is having a good aim or purpose. It's hard to consider, for instance, Hitler as a success for taking most of Europe which was pretty close to achieving his purpose. We want success to represent something good.
Aimee Byrd tells of Gracie, a 49-year-old wife and mother of two, who is part of an "ethical non-monogamy community". Swingers, essentially, although Gracie differentiates between swingers and "ethical non-monogamy" in ways that are meaningless here. Gracie argues that "monogamy is monotony" and "Having sex outside my marriage makes me a fabulous mother." How is that? "Anything that keeps me happy and gives me energy makes me a better mother.” In other words, "It's all about me and my personal pleasure. If my personal desires are satiated, it's good. Anything else is bad." Ah! There, you see? "Ethical". At least, that's what she'd like you to think.
Gracie, then, is defining "successful motherhood" as "whatever makes me happy." That she is foisting off radical sexual sin onto her currently 11-year-old son and 16-year-old daughter is "good". She is a better mother for it. She's so concerned about the welfare of her children that "If my kids asked me to stop being polyamorous I wouldn’t. I could not stop being who I am, I could not stop living the lifestyle that is me."1 Because the best moms are the ones that are most concerned about their own personal gratification. Success! She calls herself "sex positive." Carl Trueman explains how she's actually "sex negative". I would argue that, while she would consider serial sexual immorality a success, most of us and certainly God (1 Cor 6:9-10) would not.
So what about us? Are we aiming to succeed at things we ought? Danny writes, "If my children get a good education, get a good job, and get and stay married, I will consider myself a failure as a father." Wait ... what? Why? Because he recognizes that this is the world's version of "success". Genuine success is to love Christ.
You see, we have just as much difficulty with "success" as Gracie above. She sees it as personal satiation. We see it as personal satiation, too, except we think our personal satiation is more ... godly somehow. We aren't seeking to satisfy our lusts like she is. Except we often are. More comfort, more money, more power, more pleasure. Not often "more of God". Even churches have difficulty with defining "success". They'll do it in terms of programs and numbers. "If our count goes up, we're succeeding. If it goes down, we're not." And it is "success" if the aim or purpose is to increase numbers, but no one seems to be asking if that is the aim or purpose that God has for the Church.
In the end, I suppose, that's what I'm asking. If success is defined as the accomplishment of an aim or purpose, is your aim or purpose what God wants for you? Or is it what you want? If it is simply to satisfy your own desires, you are defining success in precisely the same way as our "ethical non-monogamist". You might satisfy your desires and call it a success, but God won't be impressed. And isn't that the ultimate goal of anyone who knows Christ? Don't we want to hear, "Well done, good and faithful servant" (Matt 25:21)?