“Ask a Priest: Is It Wrong to Seek Fame?”

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Q: I’ve been reading and thinking about the morality of being famous and wanting to be famous. Would one be wrong for wanting to be known or famous? Can there be fame for oneself as well as for God, or is it inherently wrong to want fame? I know that there are definitely times where it’s OK to be famous (like Jesus even is famous), but for example would it be OK to want to be famous for one’s own name? At least a little bit? As long as they kept their ego in check and gave God credit and had humility? I’m just not sure if it’s one of those things where there’s a line to cross where it becomes vain or if it is already vain in the first place. I’ve wanted to do YouTube for a while now and even started doing it and I enjoy it, but I’m afraid of doing it for the wrong reasons. – R.S.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: Fame can be fleeting as well as fatal for the spiritual life.

For fallen humans like us, seeking fame is often a path to narcissism and ultimately unhappiness.

Remember what the Lord said told a prophet, “God does not see as a mortal, who sees the appearance. The Lord looks into the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

You want to be careful not to kid yourself about keeping your ego in check as you seek fame. Seeking fame is, in fact, a form of egoism that tend to feed itself. Yet it won’t satisfy us.

It won’t satisfy us because God alone can fill our heart. The only audience we should keep in view is God — and he already knows our faults and weaknesses, so we won’t impress him.

There is a theological reason for not seeking fame. All good things come from God. The only thing we can truly call our own is our sin. St. Paul understood this and advised, “Whoever boasts, should boast in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:31).

People who seek fame are looking for praise for their talents that come, not from themselves, but from God. And that is why we should use our talents for God’s glory, not ours. “Whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).

But what about famous people such as St. John Paul II and Mother Teresa of Calcutta?

They didn’t seek fame; fame was thrust upon them, so to speak. They became world famous in part because of the holiness and humility with which they did things for the glory of God.

For related reading, you might look at Interior Freedom and Heart of Humility.

It might be good to take some of this to prayer and to see where the Holy Spirit wants you to use your gifts.


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  1. Agree… Fame is the opposite of ‘humble.’ While not obvious to a high school teen, the public school system somewhat pushes the ‘individual fame’ thing with senior prom awards: Most Popular, Most Academic, Most Likely To Succeed, Most Humorous. There is some ‘Did Most For Class’ but . . . it’s all about ‘who is best and who is not.’ It’s ‘touchy’ because certainly it is ok in the young years to be acknowledged with regards GOOD character traits. (Most Popular is ‘ability to get along with others) Most Academic is (hard working) Likely to Succeed equated to the spirit of responsibility. Some teens can take it all in the spirit of FUN and some can cause ‘big head.’

    I suppose its ok to be given awards, and promotions in a workplace, scholarships to higher education, etc
    . . . as long as one accepts ‘quietly.’ DON’T TALK IT UP… and switch the conversation to OTHER and maybe
    how this other was instrumental in providing MOST ACADEMIC awards. This is why at the Academy Awards, the ‘star’ always acknowledges the work of writer, director, producer and one’s parents (sometimes) SOMETIMES even acknowledging GOD himself. (but to do this requires saying it with a sincerity that is real)

    FAME is the cross that comes when one is GIVING A JOB 100 percent . . . I guess the best way to handle fame is to be gracious, and USE ONE’S FAME and thus influence to LEAD others to pursue their own abilities or see their own good life. Drive an average car, live in average home, live ‘happily ever married’ (not to show up as GOSSIP in certain magazines as ‘who one was seen with’ or ‘how one dresses.’

    JESUS always spoke of HIS FATHER in heaven, and ‘came down to earth’ TO SERVE not BE SERVED.

    Do one’s best FOR LOVE OF GOD and ‘play down the fame’ as much as possible. (for Hollywood ‘stars’ this
    is difficult because their PR agent is always getting them magazine and TV interviews)

  2. Actors and actresses of stage and big screen or TV, concert singers, singers with many albums to their name, sport ‘stars’ (baseball, football, basketball, etc) authors of popular books, TV journalists or syndicated journalists in many newspapers, sometimes those ‘renowned’ scientists who discover ‘miracle cures’ or doctors well-known for a specific skill and ‘sought out’ by hospitals, and some business professionals who know just how to ‘turn a profit’ in their business and grow it beyond what can be imagined by others.

    Any who appear to be PERFECT in success, wealth, and popularity . . . will attain the admiration and ‘awe’ of others. It should be kept in mind an old saying: Success has many ‘fathers’ . . . Failure is an ‘orphan.’ The human nature is always interested in those who are ‘well-known,’ hoping to attain an autograph, shake the hand, have a ‘small’ conversation with . . . for their own ‘self-interest’ to tell others that they “know” this “star” actor, actress, sports athlete, singer, business mogul. (keep in mind PALM SUNDAY when all lined up to cheer that man who was doing much good . . . and disappeared when GOOD FRIDAY came)

    “famous people” are “famous for the work they do” . . . not for themselves as persons.

    GOD permits some to have such ‘fame’ and those of such status should keep this upper most in mind, and use the ‘claim to fame’ and ‘influence’ to ‘kids’ (all ages) to speak of their ‘real wealth’ when the fashions are moth eaten, and the shiny cars are rusted, and their ‘good looks’ fade with age. Speak of the faith and grace of God that brought them blessings that last: the loving spouse of 25, 35, and 50 plus years, the knowledge and understanding of listening to His counsel (by a prayer life and by good others in their life), the perseverance of work (school and in life) despite the times when it wasn’t always smoothness and glory and when doors and phone receivers slammed on them . . . BUT they didn’t become bitter but continued on doing the good for God’s glory. Famous people with influence should speak of VALUES of MORAL VIRTUE, driving average cars, living in average homes away from the glitzy “Hollywood.” (though a wall or fence and perhaps gate with guard would be needed) To raise up ‘new souls’ (children) and speak of and contribute to ‘pro life’ organizations and give charitably ‘without’ the left hand knowing what the right hand does… ie don’t speak of it but quietly donate to homeless shelters, drug rehabs, to community colleges or trade schools (not Harvard and Yale per se) so that others also get their opportunity to make life a little happier with ‘talent’ God gave them. If possible, famous people often ‘teach’ in trade schools or colleges or give seminars of what ‘success’ really is about. (beyond the material trappings)

    This is to become ‘famous’ where it counts: with GOD and reaping the JOY one day of being with ALL THE
    FAMOUS SOULS who also GAVE OF THEMSELVES by FAITH AND GRACE OF GOD, to be eternally with God.

    All who ‘pick up the cross’ of their human ‘fleshly’ self and do the ho-hum daily disciplined duties of keeping good order in house (laundry, cooking, cleaning, bill paying) who rise each a.m. to SERVE community in the jobs of butcher, baker, candle stick maker (working in manufacturing capacity, same old same old) or the professions (accountant, doctor, dentist, etc by God’s grace) . . . ALL are living ‘in the fame’ of HE who lives ‘wholly’ part of them. So stay humble… it is all HIS GRACE when we get to do ANYTHING OF GO(O)D for self and others. Enjoy the blessings of such work, of course. But keep in mind, THE ETERNAL BLESSING OF
    THE GOOD of SEEING GOD eternally ‘one day.’

  3. Hi there,

    I am a singer. As I love to sing, it is a gift from God. But I am being careful.

    Fame is a horrible thing, an illusion, it gives you nothing, leaks lies about you, is narcissistic, uses you up and spits you out, makes you degrade yourself and is a way for greedy people to make vast amounts of money from celebrities. I am not famous, but had people following me and praising me. I liked appreciation of the musicians and the singing as we are a team. But other praising was scary and false. I had to dodge the industry which is full of evil. Teachers I had were into the occult and did reiki to me, groomed me, performed Satanic rituals – even at a respected establishment. Do you want to be impure? I think not. Please heed my warning.

    You do not need to leave anything behind in this world but the example you lead as someone who loves God. I feel God’s love everyday and it surrounds me because I let it surround me. It is like the best comfort blanket. It is pure. Being loved by God is everything. Gods love is real. Fame will not save you. Jesus will save you, never forget you, and he validates your existence. Mother Teresa is remembered, not famous – for doing good. Be wise and do things like volunteer with a trusted friend singing in church or with songs that do not have bad meanings and maybe have good morals. Jesus is not famous, Jesus is loved. He is our brother. God is not famous, he is pure love he is our Father.

    I hope this helps you. Cut back and be selective on social and other media. Ask yourself, “Would God approve of this?” – remember he is the Father. Love him as the Father. His Father’s love is so kind and pure. One day all the recordings could be destroyed. Then you are left with nothing. But God is everything and gives you, everything you need.

    Be happy, for Jesus is our King, Be happy for God is the Father, be happy and stay humble – a better feeling than fame could ever give you.
    Thank you for your question. I hope others read it and think about it too, it was an important question that you asked.

    Comments were edited for space.

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