In the work that I do, I have noticed a common pattern in the lives of men. As they leave the academic world and move out into the workplace, they all have a vision for their future lives. This vision is based on how successful they can be in the visible, measurable dimensions of life.
We all have this outer public life, which everyone sees and judges us by. It is the part of our lives that we feel compelled to manage well, because we believe this is where we get our value and worth as men.
How do men ultimately measure their success? It could be titles or a large income. One of the most common ways a man measures his life is by comparing himself to others.
Whenever men meet for the first time, without realizing it, we begin to size up one another. We compare ourselves following a certain criteria.
How does he look and dress?
Where was he educated?
What does he do for a living?
Does he have an impressive title?
What about his wife?
Where does he live?
What kind of car does he drive?
What about his kids? Are they sufficiently accomplished?
If this is the criteria for success, how well do you measure up?
The problem with this approach to life is that it is all about my external, outer life, my public life that everyone sees.
Author Gordon MacDonald says we live our lives in two separate worlds. He says there is our outer public world, the part of our lives that everyone sees. It is clearly visible, easily measurable, and the part of your life that lets you know if you are successful. Our public life makes great demands on our time and is always pulling at us.
We also have our inner private world. Jesus refers to it as our innermost being. This is where we think and reflect. It is where our ideas are formed and our choices are made. Each person’s private world is most significantly impacted by our relationship with God.
MacDonald conveys it is easy for us to neglect our private world because it is not as visible and demanding. In fact, each of us can ignore our private world for long periods of time, and it is only after these times of neglect that our lives begin to unravel.
A man can have significant talent and wealth, with movie star good looks, but his inner private life and his relationships can be a train wreck.
The Apostle Paul used insightful words about our public and private worlds:
Therefore we do not lose heart, though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. (II Corinthians 4:16)
Paul is telling us that, if we are going to live our lives for the externals, we need to know they are wasting away. You see it in your physical body. You see it in your career. It is all passing away. Paul is also implying that, when we live for the externals, we lose heart as time goes by. We leave the world in great despair, and death is ultimately the great enemy; as it removes all of our externals – the things in which we invested our lives.
Notice what Paul says to the Christians at Corinth: “We do not lose heart.” The reason for this is because, even though the externals are passing away, our inner life is being renewed and strengthened every day.
This is why Augustine said the following:
If there is a God who brought us into existence, then the deepest chambers of our souls simple cannot be filled up by anything less than Him.