In the Summer issue of The Wesleyan, Wesley College Chaplain Reverend Nalin Perera reflected on his own view of personal excellence. This is what he wrote:
As a child growing up in Sri Lanka I was constantly told by my parents, relatives and my school peers that our key objective in life was to be successful and financially abundant.
Many who have achieved such status within the wider community are looked up to as aspirational figures, whether they be media celebrities, successful business or corporate leaders, or those who have pursued political ambition.
As a society, we become fascinated with the success (or downfall) of others, as though through the prism of the lives of others we somehow find meaning in our own. However, nothing could be further from either truth or reality, despite what social media might suggest to the contrary.
In my own case, as an emerging adult, I went about pursuing the material and social goals that had been set for me by others. I made a successful career in the airline industry, which gave my young wife and I the opportunity to emigrate to Australia under the skilled worker program. It was a good life. Family and friends thought I was doing well in the scheme of things.
However, it was not fulfilling. I was, at heart, a seeker of truth.
In the absence of answers, I continued on my merry way, seeking to please others and make them proud of my achievements, yet constantly searching for a deeper meaning to my existence and mission in life.
I looked to the religion of my parents for clues. My father was a Buddhist and my mother a devout Christian. I became increasingly attracted to a certain man from Galilee, known as Jesus. As I read the Gospels, I heard a different voice, calling me in a direction not dependent on wealth, status or power. I also soon realised that choosing to follow this Jesus of Galilee was not a particularly popular pursuit, if all the aspirational goals others had placed upon me were to continue to be realised.
I knew that ultimately, I would need to make a choice and in my early 30s, now with three young daughters, I walked away from it all in order to respond to a call to Christian ministry. I had no idea what it would require.
Close friends stood by me, but others thought I was quite mad, perhaps even a little stupid, when the world had been my oyster.
As this 2019 school year comes to an end, many of you will face similar questions to the ones I faced. What is it to be successful? What is it to be recognised and looked up to? What academic career do I want to pursue? How do I win a place in society in order to make my mark?
These feelings and aspirations are perfectly normal, but if looked at only through our own eyes, something will be missing. Life is not always about winning, because often our success is as a result of the defeat of others. What I have learnt about life is that one can enjoy success in relationships and in building up the confidence of others through having a deeper appreciation of not only knowing who I am, but also knowing whose I am.
As a young man, I did not have all the information, life experience, financial resources, nor perfect conditions to create a purposeful life. However, I can now look back and realise that with God’s guidance, I was being led in the right direction.
Every life journey includes detours, setbacks, challenges, failures and new beginnings. That is what living is all about. It is how we respond to these challenges that ultimately defines us.
You do not need to have all the information, nor the financial resources, or the perfect conditions to create a purposeful life. What is required is a commitment to take small strides forward, knowing the path will reveal itself if there is a purposeful intent.
Therefore, as choices are made for the future, the pursuit of excellence in living should be our highest goal. We all have a longing to be significant; to make a solid contribution; to be part of something noble and purposeful. All of that is perfectly natural.
However, a guiding motivation is ultimately what will give our life meaning.
I might not have wealth, prestige or corporate power, but I am so glad I made the choices I did. I trust that you too might reflect on what will bring your life happiness, depth of relationships and strength for all the challenges life will bring.
This article first appeared in the Wesley College magazine, The Wesleyan. To read more articles from Summer 2019 edition, please click here.
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