We go through life being told at every turn how we must think, how we must act, and how we must speak in order to achieve success. The ubiquity of this something-for-something model of success in life inevitably conditions most of us not only to expect but also to accept only rewards and never blessings as we go about our lives. In my book The Success Genome Unravelled I called this the merit trap. Here is the difference between the two words: a reward is a beneficial return to effort whereas a blessing is a benefit gained without deliberate effort. Success, when it comes, sometimes assumes the form of a reward and sometimes the form of a blessing, and so people among us who under the influence of our meritocratic culture are psychologically disposed to regard blessings with suspicion or with feelings of unworthiness ultimately gain less than their fair share of success in life. How many times have you been offered a prestigious position that you then declined because you felt that there were people better suited to it than you? And how many times have you rejected an unexpected opportunity to gain wealth because you suspected that it must be tainted with mischief since you had done nothing to earn it? And, lastly, how many times have you spurned a possible love relationship with someone you secretly admired because you felt that you were not beautiful enough, not intelligent enough, or not rich enough to be lovers with them?
I tell you if feelings of unworthiness have caused you to decline such a prestigious position or to reject such an opportunity to gain wealth or to spurn a possible love relationship with someone you were attracted to, you have cheated yourself of success by refusing to embrace your blessings. The argument so often proffered that you didn’t deserve them and so could not accept them cannot hold because a blessing cannot be deserved since God bestows blessings on only two grounds, and merit does not figure in any of them. In the first case, God may bestow a blessing as “equipment” supplied on credit terms—that is to say, a blessing may be gained from the hand of God not for what you have done but for what you might yet do. For God often has a purpose for us, and takes it as his responsibility to prepare us for it by handing us the right experiences, the right associations, and the right possessions through blessings. In this respect, blessings may be likened to goods that are handed to you today on the expectation that you will pay for them by completing some undisclosed assignment at a later unspecified date. It is therefore one of the great ironies of our time that a society that cannot have its fill of credit should nevertheless insist that its blessings, whenever they come, should come on the back of merit and not credit. In the second case, God may bestow a blessing as compensation. Every human being at one time or another suffers misfortunes that they have done nothing to deserve, so it stands to reason that they must at other times also enjoy good fortune that they have done nothing to deserve. God offers such gratuitous good fortune as compensation for undeserved ills that have previously befallen us, for he is not deaf to the anguished cries that we set loose whenever we suffer such ills. Therefore, people who will not accept anything they haven’t earned by effort or things they feel they don’t deserve do their fortunes no positive service and are consequently distinguishable from men of unlike mind by their status as perennial masters of retarded fortunes. By foregoing the compensation appropriated by God to wipe out the various setbacks inflicted on their fortunes when bad luck befell them in times past, such people do behave like we have a choice in life whether to accept our blessings. However, common sense suggests that we really should have no choice in that matter because when misfortune strikes, we seldom have a choice whether or not to be affected by it. Beware then of this merit trap so that you may henceforth take care to make your way in life with eyes open for rewards and arms open for blessings. That’s the way champions live.
What is your opinion about blessings and rewards? Have you ever lost any opportunities by shunning your blessings? Please tell us in the comments lot below, and let’s get a conversation started.
(Author-poet Agona Apell is the author of The Success Genome Unravelled: Turning men from rot to rock)