Admiration of someone is a fascinating behaviour. It is almost always blind. We turn people into idols and then try to be like them. For example, I have long admired Eugene Peterson as a pastor, theologian, and writer. He was a brilliant thinker and phenomenal with words. I nearly turned him into an idol, something he would have despised. Yet, my admiration of him as a person was diminished by a few things I learned about him in his authorized biography, titled A Burning in My Bones. I learned that he struggled in many ways that I struggle, which did not surprise me. But, I was let down by the fact that he never overcame some of these struggles.
Admiration is blind because we assume that there are some people in the world who are just better people. They make better decisions, overcome the deep struggles that we all face, and rise to the top because of their character and discipline. Many leaders and achievers would like to make us think they are special or that they have the right formula for success.
Be skeptical of this, my friend. Their journey is not your journey.
We are blind to the hidden sins of these people. They are not superhuman. This is not to say they haven’t done some hard work. Of course, any amount of success comes through hard work. Here’s the key: we admire these people mainly because they love what they do and are doing what they were made to do. This is why admiration is so dangerous. When you want to be like someone, you are stepping outside of yourself, which is a place you will never find contentment and joy. You will never achieve the success of those you admire because you are meant to achieve something else.
What value is there in admiring others? We all need a companion. Sometimes the ones we admire can be those people. The trick is not to walk alongside those people in their current place of success but to go back and walk alongside them in their early years. This is where biographies and memoirs are so helpful.
By companioning with people through their early years, before everyone knew their names, I have learned to be patient with my journey. To put in the work, prayerfully and humbly, with curiosity about what sort of journey God has me on. Not comparing myself to those I admire, but walking alongside them, learning from their struggles.
Companions, not idols, are what we need.