‘Nothing so much beguiles those who have some natural excellence, but are not yet perfected in virtue, as a desire for fame … “that last infamy of noble mind.” ’12 Seriously, what person in their right mind would want to be idolised by human beings? Have you ever taken a close look at what’s going on when that happens? Why is it that the ones being idolised so often treat their worshippers with contempt?
We celebrate fame and idolatry but hide it under code names: ‘entertainment’; ‘club pride’; ‘good business practise’; ‘national pride’; and even things called ‘worship services’, ‘conferences’ and other Christian get-togethers where mostly what the participants are thinking about is what others are thinking of them, their prayers and their stories.
With the desire for fame so deeply woven into our national psychology, it’s not surprising that our gifted offspring are deeply infected with this instinct to rush, push and shove, cheat and cut corners, lie and steal, trick and smudge in order to be the greatest. This is so eighties-modernist!, so Wall Street, so entrepreneurial-social-network. And sadly—in worst case scenarios—it’s victims are seduced into Faustian-style magician’s bargains with the devil.
So what’s the problem with not being famous? There’s so much sweet air down in that place of being an ordinary person, taken for granted no matter how great the sacrifices you are making. Enjoying, as Jesus said, the blessings of going into your secret closet with God and having good and beautiful God-secrets that never see the light of the fame-day.
Ironically, anyone doing good anywhere in the world already has God as a work-mate and may even be famous with God. It was Jesus who pointed out that ‘many who are first will be last and many who are last will be first’. That in itself—being a light-bearer or Christ-bearer—will get you enough attention, and even a certain amount of infamy amongst the spirits of darkness in your neighbourhood.
So why not be content with that? Accept that Christ has given these beautiful gifts to you. Thank him for them, affirm that they are a burden and a privilege every day in your prayers. Commit yourself to stay close to those who will protect you. ‘Run away from anything that gives you the evil desires that young men/women often have.” (II Timothy 2:22-24). Learn to be content being a nobody—without making it obvious.
And beware of reacting to all the idolatry with judgemental attacks on your beautiful fellow human beings: even writing this article puts the author on dangerous ground. And beware great overdone shows of false modesty and spirituality. Rather, when you get involved in worship times, bible studies and prayer sessions with your brothers and sisters, practise good inner world habits—like asking yourself, ‘When I walk away are they thinking about me or about Christ?’
And how is that going to come about? Certainly not by telling them to forget about you. Rather, a prayer might be in order, maybe something like this: ‘Can you do something with me so that others would be under no illusion about where these treasures of “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control”* are coming from?’
Nine Strategies P. Volkofsky