Have you ever seriously thought about how your life is shaped and influenced by the opinions of others? Without realizing it, we gear our lives to meet the expectations of other people. It is sometimes hard for me to believe that I will allow other people’s opinions determine the way I see myself and how I am going to live my life.
Andrew Carnegie was a Scottish American who led the expansion of the steel industry in the 19th century. Many identify him as one of the wealthiest Americans to ever live. From his biography we learn he was born in Dunfermline, Scotland but grew up in Pittsburgh. When he was a young boy, he found his mother one day weeping in despair. Young Andrew tried to console his mother and urged her not to cry. He confidently assured her that one day he would be wealthy and that they would ride in a fine coach pulled by four fine horses. His mother replied, “That will do no good over here if no one in Dunfermline can see us.”
Andrew Carnegie made up his mind that day that he and his mother would make a grand entry into Dunfermline in a royal coach drawn by the finest horses, so that the entire town could witness the event. He would show them. Making it big in Pittsburgh was not enough. He had to prove the family’s success in front of their hometown audience.
A little over thirty years later, Andrew and his mother returned to Scotland. He had become one of the world’s richest men. The trip had been long planned, with his mother and a select group of their friends. There was an official parade with the climax of the day being Carnegie’s bestowal of a new, beautiful library for the city of his birth. For he and his mother, this was a magnificent day of triumph. They both had longed to win the approval of an audience that they valued so much, the people of Dunfermline. Andrew Carnegie and his mother had shown them.
Clearly, the Carnegie’s were seeking to impress an audience that was important to them. It is one thing to have certain aims and ambitions, but we somehow have come to believe that our achievements and accomplishments are worthless unless the audience we value most knows about it. Most people live their entire lives looking for ways to win the approval of their audience because it makes them feel like their lives are worthwhile and significant.
Therefore we need to recognize that it is not a matter of whether we seek to impress some audience, but who is that audience? And this is the problem, we allow this audience to make the final verdict on our lives. We allow this audience to establish our identity as men and women. However, we don’t realize our true problem; we are seeking to please the wrong audience.
We were designed to live our lives so that the audience we seek to please first and foremost is God himself. It is only logical when you get to the end of your life it is His opinion that matters most.
When you read the life of C.S. Lewis, you see how significant this issue was for him, because it completely transformed his identity. Lewis became a Christian at the age of 33, and as he began to read the Bible he found a new way to establish his identity as a man. He called it coming to terms with his real personality. He said:
“It involves losing yourself in relationship to the Creator. Until you have given yourself up to Him, you will not have a real self.”
He realized when this happens you will find that you are no longer controlled by the opinion of others and that then and only then are you truly free to live the life you were meant to live.
To read more by Richard E. Simmons III and learn about The Center for Executive Leadership visit our website at www.thecenterbham.org.