At this point in my career, I have been blessed with a significant amount of outward success. I have been blessed to run a growing media empire now valued at over $100 million. I am able to produce town hall meetings all over the United States, in which national and local leaders discuss important social, economic and political issues and get feedback from the public. I am also blessed to have wonderful relationships with friends and family.
A lot of people see the outward success, but they don’t really see the inner success that makes it all possible. It is that inner success that gives one the heightened vantage point from which to view life’s challenges and opportunities. At this point in life, I am able to see things from a 30-foot level. I can see things coming around the corner that many people, from their individual perspectives on the ground, may not be able to perceive.
The good Lord has given us all special talents and gifts that we must discover and build upon over life’s ups and downs. I am not the smartest, most well-connected or the wealthiest person in my circle of friends and business associates. But what does set me apart – and what accounts for the majority of my success—is the moral wealth I have accumulated over a lifetime of moral striving. This starts with the choices we make every day. It is the choice not to give in to sexual temptation. It is the choice to avoid substances like drugs and alcohol that can weaken one’s moral resolve. It is the choice to conduct oneself with integrity and build strong relationships that grow and strengthen over the years. All of these choices grow your moral bank account.
The wealth that begins to accumulate in this moral bank account is not obvious at first. It does not pay immediate dividends. In fact, striving morally may even appear to put one at a disadvantage, as other people without such scruples appear to get ahead of the game in certain ways. But where moral wealth really earns its value is during the storms of life. It is during the storms of life, when things are difficult, that the moral bank account really comes in handy. These storms can take the form of business challenges, economic recessions and even technological changes that challenge existing assumptions and calculus about profit and loss in business. But more likely, the storms will come in the form of more personal challenges. You may confront situations involving your own character that you may not have been prepared to deal with. Or there could be people close to you who are going through challenging times and it affects you deeply.
How does one’s moral bank account help? One of the facets of the moral bank accounts is a reservoir of good will. Even if you are going through challenges at the moment, there are still good things you have done in the past for people and they remember that. They may see your immediate challenges, but they are aware of your long track record of making the right choices, of acting in a compassionate way. And so those in a position to help you, will stand up for you and go to bat for you during the tough times.
But the moral bank account also gives one greater awareness. With age and experience wisdom ripens. You begin to encounter similar people and similar situations in life the longer you live. And if you have really learned the lessons that prior experience teaches, you can see them coming a mile away. And so the benefit of a moral surplus is that one doesn’t get caught up as easily in situations that can be distracting or harmful. The gift of discernment is one of the greatest dividends of building up a moral reserve.
When I discuss the idea of a moral reserve with people they often point out that there are wealthy people who do not operate in a moral manner. I have to always respond that of course it is possible to gain monetary wealth through unscrupulous means. After all, we are all endowed by our creator with free will. However, one cannot long maintain that wealth without a significant reservoir of moral striving. We see examples of this time and time again, whether in the business world, or in dealing with entertainers or celebrities. Some of them accumulate great wealth and power and then lose it all because they feel they’ve grown too big to adhere to the constraints of moral striving.
There are two problems you want to have in life: having such abundant wealth that you don’t know what to do with it, and having built up such a reserve of moral wealth that you are practically indestructible. In fact the two are inextricably related. Moral striving conditions us to receive and maintain monetary wealth. Moral striving is the best training ground for those who intend to achieve wealth and influence. In fact, moral striving is the way in which we receive wealth. We need to begin to reframe how we view moral striving, from considering it a chore or a burden, to viewing moral striving as the solid work of creating vessels—accounts, safes and secured currency bags—into which God’s infinite abundance can be collected, accumulated and secured for our beneficial use.