As a teenager, we cruised! We got in our cars and trucks and drove around our little sleepy town every Friday and Saturday night. Surrounded by fields of corn and soybeans, there wasn’t much to do, so we crept through the strip playing our music loud while chasing our teenage dreams.
I had a plethora of tunes in my cassette case arsenal. The music ranged from rock, metal, country, oldies, and rap. With my Pioneer tape deck (I am dating myself), two 12” subwoofers and amplifiers running hot, the car rattled as it moved around town. One of my favorite bands to listen to was Bad Company. The song “”Bad Company” and “Shooting Star” amplified my youth. The rocking guitar and kick drum locked into those syncopated rhythms, but I never really heard the words.
I was listening to the song “Shooting Star” last night and something clicked. At first the song describes a schoolboy by the name of Johnny. Johnny had dreams of the big stage as a musician and his drive took him there. It sounded like the American Dream when he hit the “big time at last.” Success was in his grip, but success can slip from your hands like tightly gripped sand. Poor Johnny made it to the top or shall I say the bottom like Janis, Jimi and Kurt. His fictitious story ends lifelessly lying in his bed with whiskey and sleeping pills singing him his final lullaby. His dream of success needed another “tune”, but Johnny couldn’t seem to find that chord.
Speaking of dreams, my wife and I sat down to watch a movie on Netflix the other night. This movie, The Founder, is a portrayal of an American icon and of a man named Ray Kroc, who chased his own dream. I enthusiastically watched what I thought was the story of how those golden arches were turned on, but it was actually more the story of a success driven man that declined morally and ethically. Kroc’s ability to sell himself and his ideas were something to marvel. His wit and drive got him noticed by the original founders, Dick and Mac McDonald, and he cunningly lured them into losing what they had brilliantly pioneered, McDonald’s, the American staple. Fueled by vision and greed, Ray Kroc took the idea that those men had piloted and soared into billions while plummeting in other areas. His lust for success drove him to a divorce, and subsequent, remarriage of a woman that been married to another McDonald’s franchisee. Success was within reach, but he had no real grasp on what is what it means to be virtuous.
What does a man gain if he must lose his reputation, trust, and credibility as a man?
Success may give you wings to fly, but if you don’t have elevators, flaps and a navigator, it may crush you upon landing.
In the Bible Saul was a man with a similar ending to both Ray and poor old Johnny. His rise to fame took a different path, but his ending is predictably similar. After all, where is a man to go if he is driven by success while risking virtue?
Like a physically gifted man is chosen to play in a sport, Saul was chosen as Israel’s first king because of his physical prowess. The people of Israel longed to have a leader like all the other nations and a man who stood head and shoulders over other men. God gave them what they wanted. God also told them exactly what was going to happen if they followed through in the quest to have a king lording over them. The Israelites insolence and stubborn rebellion silenced faith and reason, and they denied God’s better path of simply being ruled by Him. Saul’s reign began honorably and successfully by winning battles. Then, as what success often does, it began to derail Saul and his ability to lead well and listen to God. Saul started to take some liberties after being successful in battle. His power corrupted him.
Power tends to corrupt. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Lord Acton (circa 1887)
This would seal the fate of Saul and would be the beginning of the end. Saul’s kingship would be revoked and David would be anointed as the next king. As the echo chamber of Saul’s leadership grew loud, his lack of virtue silenced his life. After 40 years of leadership, Saul is a shadow of a man. His hatred for David blinded him to his own failures and the Spirit of God had left him. At one point the people shouted his name and now they are declaring the praises of David. Saul’s physical life ends when he falls on his own sword after being mortally wounded, but his spiritual life died well before. God chose Saul and then, Saul chose Saul. The rest is history.
Johnny and Ray worked hard and earned success while Saul reluctantly found it. Either way the path was predictably dark and destructive. Success needs the companionship of virtues or else it may derail you and I.
Success needs the companionship of virtues or else it may derail you and I.
Virtue holds a man in check with his core beliefs and God’s design. The types of virtues that need to define and guide a man are humility, honesty, integrity, approachability, trustworthiness, emotional stability, spiritual maturity, kindness, fierceness, friendships, compassion, and vision. These virtues help steer a man into being the man that honors God and can stand even through the destructive rhythms of success. A virtuous man is equipped to handle success.
What some may take from this is, “So I shouldn’t try to be successful in my work, my finances, my ambitions, etc.” If you have heard this, there has been a misunderstanding. Work to the glory of God! Work hard, invest well, have fun, dream big and always honor God first. Simply put, don’t become a man of success if you have to sacrifice being a man of virtue. Virtue grounds you to being the best man, husband, father, worker, leader, and friend you can be.
Don’t become a man of success if you have to sacrifice being a man of virtue.
A better way of looking at this may be to pursue virtue. Once you have grown in these areas, consider that the ultimate success and everything else will follow.
The catalyst of this movement is a burden to see men glorify God and live out of their best self. So, this brotherhood can communicate through this blog, Twitter @anewkindofman, Instagram with the same handle @anewkindofman or on Facebook by searching for A New Kind of Man.
Thanks for reading and let’s become A New Kind of Man!