We must cultivate an aversion to futility in our personal and corporate cultures.
This will help you to conquer the proclivity toward éxitophobia,* which is the fear of success. To see this, let’s now jump ahead to chapter 1 of Jonah.
“The word of the Lord” is the foundation for success (verses 1-2), whenever we have a sincere, intuitive inspiration. This causes Jonah to flee (verse 3), not from his assignment directly, but in fact from the presence of the Lord (repeated again in the same verse, ‘from the presence of the Lord.’) Now we can see 4:2 (from my previous post) in relation to this verse (1:3) – to flee from the Lord’s presence means Jonah was fleeing from His compassion and lovingkindness (also per 4:10-11). The overriding theme of this book and attribute of Jonah’s character is that of selfishness, which we will clearly see in a future post in chapter 2, an angry spirit, and lack of compassion, which is still evident until the end of the book, with no change, in chapter 4.
Immediately, as if to say “I’m still here; you can’t flee from my presence,” the Lord manifests Himself. The perfect storm (verse 4 of chapter 1). Then the first half of verse 5 shows a clear move of futility, the first of two in this chapter. There was NO reason to throw the cargo overboard because this was not the true cause. The “non-Christian” mind could not understand the true spiritual dimension. In fact, Jonah had told them that he himself was the cause of the storm – the second half of verse 10. Thus, they lost all their cargo for nothing, with no benefit as a consequence.
How often do we behave this way? Lots of activity and effort, but not really seeing the true spiritual dimension, and so no real consequence? “Aversion to futility” is a major de-motivating force in our churches, organizations and businesses today because our members and employees can see that all their effort is not accomplishing anything. They are averse to futility, while their leaders are addicted to it. Addiction to futility is a symptom of éxitophobia. So to overcome the fear of success, we must cultivate an aversion to futility.
This is a factor in the “fear of success” because if we’re not PLANNING for success, and beyond the success – as I discussed in the previous post – then everything we do is futile. And this subtle, underlying sense of futility de-motivates us. On the other hand, an aversion to futility will propel us to plan for, and beyond, the success.
I recently thought that I needed to replace the closet bolts on one of the toilets in our house. There is only one way to do it: remove the toilet, including the wax ring, and everything. So everything came out; I made the necessary mess in the bathroom.
And I did replace the bolts, but the toilet still sits above the floor, due to the placement of the closet flange. The point is: We often dedicate so much effort and activity, yet in the end, we still haven’t fully accomplished what we set out to do. Just like these sailors – lots of effort and activity, but focused in the wrong area; this equates to futile effort. As I said, they lost all their cargo for nothing, with no benefit as a consequence.
Then the second move of futility occurs (in v. 13), as if they totally did not hear Jonah in v. 12 – “He said to them, ‘Pick me up and throw me into the sea. Then the sea will become calm for you, for I know that on account of me this great storm has come upon you.’ 13 However, the men rowed desperately to return to land but they could not, for the sea was becoming even stormier against them.”
Some people have a high sensitivity to futility, which leads to an aversion to it, and others – like these sailors apparently – do not, which results in a tolerance for futility. Jonah gave them the true remedy for their crisis, but instead they tried to row desperately to return to land.
This is a problem because I, and many people like me, are averse to futility. In fact, I think even stronger than a fear of success is my fear of futility. So strong is this aversion that sometimes I am paralyzed, unable to start a project because I know I’ll be unable to finish it, thereby rendering it futile.
However, on the flip side, we can utilize the aversion to futility as a means to achieve success.
We must recognize our natural, human aversion to futility, and thereby exploit it to move us toward success. In other words, aversion to futility can be one weapon in our arsenal to vanquish éxitophobia.
Aversion to futility is one key to overcoming the fear of success (like planning beyond the success – in my previous post), just as addiction to futility is one aspect of succumbing to it.
* Refer to my previous posts for my explanation of éxitophobia.