In listening to Bono’s audio autobiography, Forty Songs, One Life, he makes the comment that fame does and should change you. We call it growth. The only question is whether it changes you for better or worse.
It is a good listen despite some of his language, length, and antics. There are several things in his life on which I may not agree with that may turn off some Christians. However, he seems to be a guy who seeks to serve Christ, through his music and better yet, his whole life.
I have never thought of fame in this regard. But we all should change, grow, or mature throughout our entire lifetimes. To not change as adults would be stagnation. It seems ridiculous for me to think that one would not change as an adult. But look around you, there are a lot of people who fit this description. They make it their goal in life to remain the same, not change where they live, how they live, the priorities by which they live, the job they have, the food they eat, what they read (or don’t read), how they recreate, where they shop, how they pray, the songs they sing, how they think, or even the kind of underwear they wear! To one like me who prefers change, this sounds horrible.
I believe there should be at least the desire to grow and mature. As Bono illustrates, life will change around you, so you must adjust to it as it does. For him it was fame or influence, and his response was to use his influence for the causes of Christ in helping the poor and the marginalized around the world. His priorities changed, as well as changed him. The question isn’t do we change, but how do we change?
Let me suggest that fame isn’t about money, it is about influence. There have been many famous people throughout history who have not had a lot of financial resources, but they did end up having significant influence which is why they are famous. Ironically, some didn’t have much fame during their lifetime, but rather it came after their death.
The question still remains, how does fame or influence or simply life change you?
With the impact of social media, many people achieve fame but only for only a short time. Their video goes viral, or they ride a wave of having a million followers. So how does that change the individual? I watch as some become obsessed with gaining more followers, fame, or influence. Their means of influence becomes their end. Most often, but not always, these individuals lose their fame after a while, and they don’t mature well.
While others, like Bono, maintain their influence long term because their goal was not to gain followers or fame, but to be faithful to a cause much greater than themselves. The thing that hit me was that we all have influence, albeit not like Bono’s, but nonetheless influence all the same. I have influence, so the question is, has it changed me for the better or the worse.
Bono uses Nelson Mandela as an example of one who continued to change for the better. Despite spending over 27 years incarcerated and tortured in prison, he emerged as someone who was humble and full of gratitude. He forgave those who wrongly treated him and was at peace within himself. While in prison, it is little surprise to note he continued to read and memorize the scriptures daily and exercise exhaustively. This kept him centered amid extreme persecution.
So how are you maturing? I recently engaged in numerous debriefs where candidates sought to excuse their issues in light of the things other people did to them. They neither assumed responsibility for anything they did wrong, nor did they acknowledge how they could grow or change from the situation. What is God teaching you about you and how can you grow?
Growth only comes through change, and as we assume responsibility for ourselves and not others, we can become a stable person in crises. Murray Bowen MD is a person who studied family and organizational dynamics for his whole life, and he wrote:
“Crises can be averted when one can find a person with the courage to define self, who is as invested in the welfare of the family as in self, who is neither angry nor dogmatic, whose energy goes to changing self rather than telling others what they should do.”1
For me growth is all about knowing how I need to change and mature. As we age, we are given the opportunity to mature. But this isn’t a given, just look at people around you of any age. Jenny Brown writes after decades of helping people grow in relationships:
“The challenges of mid and later life reveal to us that the experiences of years alone don’t automatically mature us. We won’t grow up much if we live from decade to decade seeking to shore ourselves up with validating relationships and without ever examining our own life. With the pace of modern life intensifying, it is particularly difficult to find the space and energy to do such re-visioning. Often it takes a crisis to motivate us to make this a priority.”2
Bono is right, fame does change people, but so does life for all of us. The only question we all must answer is, are the changes we are seeking, maturing us in godliness or simply helping us remain the same?
1 Bowen M. in Kerr, M.E. and Bowen, M. 1988, Family Evaluation: An approach based on Bowen theory, Norton, New York, p. 343.
2Location 2610 in Growing Yourself Up; How to bring the best to all of life’s relationships by Jenny Brown