An Old Doctor’s Thoughts: Fame and Happiness Can’t Be Equated (Audio Essay)
By Tian Tian, China
Editor’s Note: What is true happiness? Many people might think, “Success and making a name for yourself, and being looked up to and admired by others is happiness.” Here, a relatively well-known physician realizes in her waning years that despite having high status and being looked up to by many people, she wasn’t happy. Having gained these things held no significance at all for her. Why did this famous doctor reach this conclusion? And what new understanding of real happiness did she gain? Read on to find out her experience …
At the close of every night, month, and year, careful people will sum up their experience, plan, and set goals for the results in their study and work, so that they can improve in the future. Even more careful people will sum up their experience in their own life, “How did I come pass through at every stage of my life? Does the life I lead now have any significance? Am I truly happy? What should I pursue to find real significance and gain true happiness?” I am a retired physician who previously worked in a hospital, and recently I also summed up my own experience in life. My conclusion: Whether or not a person is happy in life has nothing to do with whether he is successful and famous.
My Adoration for the Respect Earned by Fame and Success
One spring, years ago, I went out for a picnic with Doctor Wang from my hospital. Along the way, the local villagers recognized him at a glance. They affectionately shouted “Dr. Wang” as we passed. During our picnic, they were more enthusiastic, and when they saw we lacked certain tools, they voluntarily gave us use of their own. In those days, material conditions were not ideal, and milk was in very short supply, but when people from the milk factory learned that Dr. Wang had come, they rushed out to bring us milk. When I saw the enthusiasm with which the villagers welcomed Dr. Wang, I couldn’t help but be amazed: These villagers really liked Dr. Wang! Wherever he went, he was respected, to the point that people came to help him on the news that he was there for a picnic. But what about me? I was just a clinician, languishing in obscurity, who could do nothing but ride on Dr. Wang’s coattails. It made me sigh. But then, in my disappointment, I looked at Dr. Wang’s silver hair and thought: Am I not still young? If I study medicine and work hard, one day, sooner or later, I would be just as successful and famous as Dr. Wang, and gain the same level of respect and support from others! This is true happiness!
Fighting With All My Strength for My Goals
After that, I ceaselessly studied medical theories from every discipline. In addition to my work, I also participated in various skill tests and supplementary classes. To gain opportunities for more practical experience and improve my medical skills more quickly, whether at work or not, I never missed a chance to practice at the operating table. At work, sometimes my stomach would hurt, but I forced myself to bear it and work hard. Sometimes I worked 24 continuous hours in a day, and my head felt heavy and faint, but I bore the discomfort. Sometimes, when I knew there was an elective surgery the next day, I forced myself to work overtime. No matter how late I would get home or how tired I would be, I repeatedly reviewed the techniques required by the surgery to ensure that I made no errors the next day. When I finally dragged my exhausted body home, I laid my heavy head down on the pillow, and all I wanted to do was sleep, but when I closed my eyes, every detail of the operations began to surface in my mind. I remembered a colleague who had lost his qualification to conduct surgeries because he made a mistake at work, so I was especially worried that I would make a mistake, which would end my career as a surgeon. I lived under the bondage of stress, fatigue, and worry. They kept me awake for far too long, and my body and mind were tired and exhausted …
I yearned to put aside all my anxieties, stress, and exhaustion and take a rest, even just for a day, but when I remembered the idea that “Those who work hardest go furthest,” and that only people who succeed and become famous ever find true happiness, I picked myself up and kept going, and constantly told myself: Work hard! You’ll only be satisfied if you do your best! Otherwise you’ll never make others look up to you and admire you.
Delight at the First Taste of Success and Steps Toward Higher Goals
After seven years of hard work, I finally reached the level of physician! At that moment, the most common sentiment in my mind was that all my efforts were worthwhile! After I was promoted, my salary and status went up as well, and it even cost more to register an appointment with me than with a general doctor. When I saw the fruit of my efforts, words were insufficient for the happiness I felt, and all the pressure and exhaustion I felt in the past seemed to vanish.
As I walked along busy streets, other people recognized me. Some patients reminded me that I had seen them, saying, “In such and such a month, I went to your hospital to be treated for my illness, and it didn’t cost me much, thank you!” Some people, accompanied by a patient, said, “I’ve heard you’re a very skilled doctor, and I finally find you….” Their admiration and praise delighted me, as if I was tasting honey in my heart. I felt my self-image immediately ballooned, and I experienced what it means to have a sense of accomplishment. But after that happiness passed, I realized that if I could become an attending physician, there would be even more people who sought me out, and my colleagues and patients would admire me more. So, I secretly cheered myself on in my heart: Keep going, with just a little more work, you’ll be an attending physician, you’ll have an even better reputation, you’ll receive even more admiration and compliments, and then you’ll have true happiness.
Reaching a Higher Place in Life—Sweet or Bitter?
After that, to achieve the breakthrough in my medical skills necessary to become an attending physician, I ignored my husband’s complaints that I didn’t have enough time for my family and applied for a very rare opportunity to go to a municipal medical office for further study. I relished the chance. During my training, I suddenly found myself pregnant. I was both excited and frustrated, excited because I was about to become a mother, but frustrated because it had been difficult to earn this chance at sabbatical, and if I gave it up, I might never become an attending physician…. I went back and forth, hesitating, and was very distressed. Finally, for my future, I decided to keep working and studying. I never imagined that overwork would cause my pregnancy to be aborted! After surgery to repair my uterus, I lay in bed thinking about not the child I had lost or how to adjust my body, but I was afraid that if I didn’t finish my studies and graduate, all the effort I had made would be in vain …
After another seven years of hard work, I finally achieved my dream and became an attending physician, which came with further praise and admiration from my patients. Some patients came to visit with gifts of all kinds of local products, some gave gifts and shopping cards to show their gratitude, and others saw me eating at restaurants and secretly paid my bill …
Faced with my hard-won success, I was very happy, but although fame and success brought me respect and admiration from others, it also gave me immense pressure and made me physically and mentally exhausted. After I gained the title of attending physician, I even more felt like I was spending every day walking on the knife’s edge. I had to be especially cautious and careful, because I was always afraid that a medical accident would ruin me. Because of the pressure on my body and mind for so a long time, and because work was so stressful, I only weighed a little over 40 kilograms. I simultaneously suffered from stomach pain, cholecystitis, and other conditions, making it so that I couldn’t eat at all. During the day, I was dizzy, and my body was weak. My feet were as heavy as lead, and at night, even with sleeping pills, I couldn’t sleep. When I suffered insomnia, I often turned on the light and leaned against the headboard as I repeatedly asked myself: I thought having high status and being looked up to by people would make me happy and make my life feel significant, and I have sacrificed so much for so many years, and now I have money, status, and many people who look up to and admire me, but what a normal person ought to have is the ability to eat dinner and go to sleep, things which have become luxuries for me. Why, now that I have everything I wanted, do I feel no happiness at all, but instead feel especially anxious and miserable? After spending a lifetime working so hard, is my reward to be endless illness, pain, and sadness? Why is my life so hard? How should a person live to have a meaningful and valuable life? What is true happiness?
Sickness Must Be Cured at the Root, Just Like the Pain in Life
Just as I was physically and mentally exhausted, nearly tormented to death by my illnesses, and at a loss regarding how to live, I accepted God’s work of the last days. Through engaging in fellowship with my brothers and sisters and reading God’s words, I came to understand some of the truth, and my anxiety was eased a bit. I no longer felt so worried all the time. One day, I read in the piece of God’s word “God Himself, the Unique VI”: “People think that once they have fame and gain, they can then capitalize on those things to enjoy high status and great wealth, and to enjoy life. They think fame and gain are a kind of capital that they can use to obtain a life of pleasure-seeking and wanton enjoyment of the flesh. For the sake of this fame and gain which mankind so covets, people willingly, albeit unknowingly, hand over their bodies, minds, all that they have, their futures and their destinies, to Satan. They do so without even a moment’s hesitation, ever ignorant of the need to recover all that they have handed over. Can people retain any control over themselves once they have taken refuge in Satan in this way and become loyal to it? Certainly not. They are completely and utterly controlled by Satan. They have completely and utterly sunk into a quagmire, and are unable to free themselves.” “Satan uses fame and gain to control man’s thoughts, until all people can think of is fame and gain. They struggle for fame and gain, suffer hardships for fame and gain, endure humiliation for fame and gain, sacrifice everything they have for fame and gain, and they will make any judgment or decision for the sake of fame and gain. In this way, Satan binds people with invisible shackles, and they have neither the strength nor the courage to throw them off. They unknowingly bear these shackles and trudge ever onward with great difficulty.”
God’s word says very clearly that my life was so tiring and miserable because I single-mindedly pursued fame, fortune, and status. I realized that thanks to my education and the influence of famous and accomplished people, I had taken such ideas and notions as “Men should always strive to be better than their contemporaries,” “A man leaves his name behind wherever he stays, just as a goose utters its cry wherever it flies,” “One should strive to stand head and shoulders above others,” and “People struggle to go upward, but water flows downward” as goals to be pursued, and I believed that only through success, fame, and making others look up to and admire me could I live a valuable life and achieve true happiness. Especially when I saw how the successful and accomplished people around me were admired and looked up to wherever they went, I even more so believed that pursuing fame and fortune was a correct goal a person should pursue. Because of that, I had ceaselessly studied medical theories and knowledge, taken all kinds of medical training classes, investigated and done surgeries, and worked day and night at the cost of disregarding my own health and my family’s feelings. Although I had become an attending physician and gained my patients’ and colleagues’ admiration, I had sacrificed time with my family, lost my unborn child, made myself sick in many ways, and couldn’t even eat or sleep normally. Thinking of these things, I couldn’t help but sob in torment, because chasing after fame and fortune had made my life miserable, even pitiable. Only then did I realize that fame and fortune had become satanic shackles for me and that they were means and methods Satan uses to corrupt people. Satan made me single-mindedly pursue fame, fortune, and status, expend all of my energy, and utterly exhaust myself, which allowed it to control me, harm me, and make me live in inescapable torment. Satan is truly loathsome!
At the same time, I also thanked God from the bottom of my heart for saving me. When I had no path forward, God chose me and made me come before Him, enlightened and guided me to understanding of the truth, helped me find the root of my pain, and allowed me to see clearly how Satan uses fame and fortune to control and harm people. As I weighed these thoughts, the strength to escape the shackles of fame and fortune began to rise in my heart, so I turned to God and prayed to ask for God’s guidance as I let go of these mistaken views on life and values, and stopped living by satanic thoughts and notions. After that, I spent more of my time away from work to worship God and read God’s word, to attend gatherings and fellowship about God’s words with my brothers and sisters, to sing hymns and praise God, and to openly fellowship with my brothers and sisters about the difficulties I encounter in life and seek answers in God’s word. There were no distinctions in status between my brothers and sisters, they treat everyone as equals, everyone helped and supported one another, and whenever corruption was exposed, we fellowshiped openly about it, practiced being honest people according to God’s requirements, lived out normal humanity, and everyone got along harmoniously. In this environment, I felt an incredible release in my heart, as if living this way felt very secure and joyous. It was a happiness I had never experienced in years of pursuing fame and fortune. After that, I invested even more energy in reading God’s word and living church life. Without realizing it, my sleep improved, and my stomach pain and cholecystitis have also become better. I am very grateful to God.
After the Turbulence of Pursuing Fame and Fortune, Finding Peace Through Understanding God’s Word
Later, my colleagues actively sought promotions, some whose skill levels were below mine, and some who I had mentored became associate professors. Seeing this, my heart was somewhat lost. If my body hadn’t failed me, given my excellent medical skills, I would at least be an associate professor. Thinking about this, I again had the idea to fight for my career again, but when I thought of the suffering it would require to win a promotion, I knew that this was Satan’s trick. It wanted to use my desire to again ensnare me in the whirlpool of pursuing fame and fortune, and as a result I was repeatedly harmed and tormented. I remembered the words of God, “They realize that money cannot buy life, that fame cannot erase death, that neither money nor fame can lengthen a person’s life by a single minute, a single second” (“God Himself, the Unique III”). It’s true. Although fame and fortune bring us temporary happiness and enjoyment, they can’t help us escape our emptiness and torment, nor can they save our lives. Think of those famous entrepreneurs with their massive fortunes and high status, but who all the same get cancer at a young age because of years of overwork. Their status and wealth couldn’t save their lives. Many singers and actors are worshiped and admired, and have countless fans, but although they have fame and success and look brilliant on stage, they can’t escape their feelings of emptiness and torment. Some suffer depression, some take drugs, and some even kill themselves. And so on. The facts prove that fame and fortune can’t bring people happiness. The glory always dissipates into a fog, and in the end only brings people emptiness and pain. For all these years, thanks to the fact that I didn’t see Satan’s schemes behind fame and fortune, I pursued them single-mindedly, brought spiritual pressure and misery on myself, and mistreated and tormented my body. If I repeated the same mistakes and worked as hard as I once did, I might gain a higher position as a doctor, but I would lose my health and my life. What would be the significance of that?
God’s word says, “As someone who is normal, and who pursues the love of God, entry into the kingdom to become one of the people of God is your true future, and a life that is of the utmost value and significance. No one is more blessed than you—and why do I say this? Because those who do not believe in God live for the flesh, and they live for Satan, but today you live for God, and live to do the will of God. That is why I say your lives are of the utmost significance” (“Know God’s Newest Work and Follow His Footsteps”). From God’s word, I understood that no matter how high our status and prestige, and no matter how many people praise or admire us, these things are temporary, and disappear in the blink of an eye. And afterward, there is still emptiness. They are meaningless. We are created beings, and if we pursue the truth, obey God, live by God’s word, perform our duties well, do God’s will, and gain God’s approval, this is the highest honor we can attain in life. It is also what I knew I should choose to pursue. Just like Noah, Abraham, Job, and Peter in the Bible, they didn’t pursue wealth, fame, or fortune, they didn’t pursue worldly success or having others look up to and admire them, but instead focused on practicing God’s word, doing God’s will in all things, fearing God and shunning evil, and pursued obedience to God, satisfying God, and loving God, and in the end they delighted God, lived the most meaningful lives, and found true happiness. Once I understood this, I gained a proper objective to pursue and was no longer affected by the promotion of my colleagues, nor did I plan to go strive for promotion again. Afterward, I spent my free time reading God’s word, attending meetings and fellowshiping with my brothers and sisters about God’s word, focused on doing things according to God’s requirements, and strove to fulfil my duties. Doing these things gave me stability and joy.
The Release and Ease Gained From Rejecting the Temptations of Fame and Fortune
One day, I received a call from the director of another hospital. He said, “Now you are retired, so we’re planning a banquet for you to celebrate, and we’d also like to discuss future cooperation with you. We’d like you to register your attending physician license at our hospital to attract your former patients, you could also work for us, or you could become a shareholder. It’s up to you.” Hearing his words, I understood clearly that even though the hospital director only said the hospital wanted to use my license, I would still have to go there when problems with treatment occurred. I couldn’t help but think that I had been fighting for fame and fortune for most of my life, thinking that I would be truly happy once others looked up to and admired me, but what had I gained from it? Only pain and sadness! Now, I have finally escaped this pain, and I don’t need to tire myself out day and night. After believing in God, I tasted happiness and release that I had never experienced before, spiritually I enjoyed the feeling of genuine happiness, and I was resolved to hold firmly to this happiness. Following God was the most meaningful path, and I could no longer allow myself to follow Satan. I thought of God’s words that say, “Right now, each day you live through is crucial, and it is of the utmost importance to your destination and your fate, so you must cherish everything you have today, and treasure each minute that passes. You must carve out as much time as you can to give yourselves the greatest gains so that you will not have lived this life in vain” (“To Whom Are You Loyal?”). That I have been fortunate enough to accept God’s work is God’s exaltation and grace for me, especially considering the fact that God’s work is nearing its close, but I understand too little of the truth and need to strive with all my strength to pursue, so I must cherish every minute and second, pursue the truth in the limited time I have, and gain God’s approval! Now that I understood God’s will, I more clearly knew how I should answer the hospital director. So, I refused him, “I have high blood pressure, so there’s no need to go through the trouble of a banquet. I appreciate the thought. And with regard to future cooperation, my health isn’t as good as it was, and I’d like to rest, so I don’t think there’s anything we can discuss.” In the moment I hung up the phone, I felt an incomparable release in my heart. After that, other hospitals reached out to me regarding cooperation through doctors and my relatives, but I rejected them. Today, my life every day is reading God’s word and doing my duties, and I feel very secure and satisfied. Thanks be to God!
When I think back on my journey, I deeply realize that being truly happy and living a meaningful life is not decided by whether you have success, fame, status, or wealth. It is decided by whether we believe in and worship God, whether we follow God’s will, and whether we can gain God’s approval. If we don’t come before God and read God’s word, if we don’t accept the truth, we can only be bound and constrained by absurd satanic notions, and living this way is nothing but torment. Even if we have money, life is empty. When we can worship the Creator and enjoy the guidance and watering of God’s word, our hearts will be bright, secure, calm, and joyous, and this is true happiness!
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