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Christian Counseling: Men’s Desire for Greatness

I rarely hear women assert a wish to “be great” or “do great things.” Numerous men, on the other hand, have voiced such a desire. When asked what it means or why they feel as they do, men have a difficult time explaining. So, here’s my take on what and why.

Spiritually, we are created in the image and likeness of God, which can help us to understand some aspects of the desire to be or do great things. God wants to known, understood, seen as good, admired, worshipped, glorified and His name to be remembered throughout eternity. Many people have some or even all of these same desires. We know that Lucifer (Satan) and a third of the spirits left heaven because they wanted the same things, to the point of insisting on absolute equality or even to be seen as greater than God. Having these desires, other than Satan’s, and seeking after them are two entirely different things—one is permissible and the other wrong, respectively. 

The desire to be great has a long history in created beings and in God Himself. In one way it should not sound strange to hear Christian men say, “I long to be great for God.” or “I want to do great things for God and others.” To most people making such statements God is first and they are second or even third in line, with others placed before themselves.

Psychologically, there exist other reasons why people desire to be great or do great deeds. Some have great empathy for the pain of others and want to be a healer of many. Others have poor self-esteem and imagine greatness can lift them to heights of attention and recognition. Some seek stardom, where, as most, they may be overcome by the enticement of power. Still others feel they are so misunderstood and/or looked down upon that they want to be vindicated by having others know the truth about who they truly are.

We can learn something from Jesus about greatness. He did not seek it for Himself until the end of His life, and then only by prayer. In His priestly prayer we read, ‘‘‘Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You…Now Father glorify Me, together with Yourself…’” (Jn 17:1, 5). Jesus wanted self-glory, but did not directly seek it (Jn 8:50), instead He asked God to give it Him. Glory is given us by Jesus (Jn 17:23; Rom 8:21, 30), and to those who “by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; but [not] to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth…” (Rom 2:7, 8).

Greatness is not defined by or achieved according to the world’s standards, but God’s. To Him a person is great if he or she: (1) keeps and teaches others to follow the commandments (Mt 5:19), (2) is humble like a little child (Mt 18:1), and (3) becomes a minister (servant, waiter or errand boy) and a servant (slave who is bound to others) (Mt 20:26, 27). Perhaps you are already great in the eyes of God!

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