Work for God, Not Success

Our "Working Life" columnist tackles the purpose of work.

I am struggling with contradiction regarding my role as a leader and the practice of my Catholic faith. I have recently had a “reversion” back to the faith. I was introduced to the Litany of Humility. How can I continue in a high-paying, prestigious and powerful job and sincerely pray that prayer?

This might be my all-time favorite question. The Litany of Humility is not a contradiction to your position; it is a glorious paradox of our beautiful Catholic faith. For clarification, a contradiction is something that can’t be reconciled. A paradox, on the other hand, is something that on the surface appears to be a contradiction but, in fact, is not.

The litany includes asking God to free us from certain desires, such as the desire to be honored, praised, consulted and preferred to others. It also includes the request that others are more esteemed, chosen and preferred. The simplest way to see the difference is to understand that the prayer does not exclude these rewards from actually happening in your life. In other words, it does not ask God to prevent you from being esteemed, chosen, preferred, etc. It only asks that our disordered desire for these things be stripped from our motivations. Mother Teresa, for example, received all of these things in her life, but those closest to her knew that she did not work toward them or seek them. She quietly carried on her work for the glory of God.   

In fact, if your vocational gifts include leadership charisms, you will receive these honors. Over the past two decades I have witnessed the devastation that comes from people pursuing these accolades for personal gain versus receiving them as an outcome of hard work and dedication to a worthy mission.

As Catholics, we are all called to develop our God-given talents, which, by default, means that people will most likely notice the quality of our work. This means that you are obligated to work to the best of your ability to accomplish great things according to your gifts. It is an incredible act of love for God to strive to develop your skills without expecting praise.   

When someone has a disordered ambition, he or she makes decisions based on personal gain and image. This causes star athletes to be “insulted” by $50 million contracts because other athletes received larger contracts. Personal gain and glory also create an atmosphere for people like politicians to make decisions based on polls instead of doing what they know is right.

Ironically, there are times that you can measure your effectiveness as a leader based on praise, income and increased power. But at other times, you will become increasingly unpopular for making decisions that are morally uncompromising. In those cases, you will be harshly judged and maybe even falsely accused. The Litany of Humility also includes a request to manage these difficult times when they arise.

In conclusion, work as hard as you can, do your best and develop your talents to their highest level, but do so for the glory of God. If you ever feel compelled to make a decision based on a poll, then poll the saints and the blessed Trinity. Using God’s eternal truth and the moral compass of the Church is a sure way to heaven.  

Catholic business consultant Dave Durand is online at