Can you die of success?

In his piece, “The Patient As A Person,” Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel says:

Striving for personal success is a legitimate and wholesome ingredient of the person. The danger begins when personal success becomes a way of thinking, the supreme standard of all values. Success as the object of supreme and exclusive concern is both pernicious and demonic. Such passion knows no limit. According to my own medical theory, more people die of success than of cancer.

Heschel contends that “making money is expensive” and that “making money may cost us values that no money can buy.”

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“Prepare Yourself for An Ordeal”

Fr. Mark Goring, CC of the parish I attended in Ottawa likes to preach often on the first verse of the second chapter of the Book of Sirach which says, “My child, if you aspire to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for an ordeal.”

It is a startling sentence when we stop to think about it because most of the time we go through life trying to prepare ourselves for loving relationships, meaningful successes, a reasonable amount of prosperity, and an abundance of opportunities.

What, if anything, are we doing to prepare ourselves for an ordeal, for tests, for trials?

What young person, on being asked what he or she is doing or hopes to do, will respond that they are preparing themselves to suffer hardships honourably?

And yet, the verse above speaks about “preparing yourself” – not even being prepared simply by God or by circumstances – but intentionally and resolutely preparing yourself for the tests and trials of life that are sure to come.

What difference would it make if we set ourselves up not only for success but for ordeals?

And, what sort of education and training constitute such preparation?