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