I have, hidden deep inside myself, a secret desire to be great, famous, award-winning, important, world-changing. For a long time, this secret desire caused a sort of dissatisfaction with myself and my life. As time passed, it became more and more clear to me that I have a different role to play in the world. I thought that maybe my secret desire to be great would never be realized. I just wasn’t beautiful enough or smart enough or talented enough, so I would have to have to be satisfied with being ordinary.
One day, I read the following passage from one of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s speeches (February 4, 1968) and it really changed my perspective.
And so Jesus gave us a new norm of greatness. If you want to be important—wonderful. If you want to be recognized—wonderful. If you want to be great—wonderful. But recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. That’s a new definition of greatness.
And this morning, the thing that I like about it: by giving that definition of greatness, it means that everybody can be great, because everybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don’t have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don’t have to know Einstein’s theory of relativity to serve. You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love. And you can be that servant.
The first time I read this, it was like my spirit embraced the words. I felt relieved, as if finally I had found a medium through which I could excel. I can love. I can serve. In this way, I can be great.
In the time since I read the quote, I have worked on having more of a servant mentality. I try to be a good listener. I try to be compassionate to everyone I meet. I really try to look for grace everywhere. I try to leave people happier and more peaceful than I found them. The wonderful thing is, this type of greatness does not exclude anyone else. This type of greatness does not put anyone else down as it lifts me up. This type of greatness has no negative fallout. I try to always keep in mind that this is the greatness that really matters. This is the greatness that is going to help me grow to be a better person. This is the greatness that changes me as it changes the world a tiny bit at a time. This is the greatness that is going to leave me with a sense of satisfaction and joy. This is the greatness that I want. It is not exclusively mine. Everybody can be great.