What is the measure of success? According to a recent Barna survey, to many it is “a strong family unit, a solid and lasting marriage or if they had done a good job of raising their children.”

Family life was the primary success factor for Catholics (38 percent) and people with children under 18 (44 percent).

Following family was lifetime accomplishments. One-fourth of the population said accomplishments—namely, financial accumulation, educational achievement or “making a difference in the world”—were an appropriate measure of success.

“This view was most often held by adults under age 35 and by people associated with a faith other than Christianity,” read the survey.

Fourteen percent of adults said success was “due to personal emotional fulfillment.” Emotional fulfillment was reflected in “obtaining a prestigious job or achieving a state of happiness or satisfaction with life.”
Different generations felt differently about emotional fulfillment.

“Baby Busters (adults 37 or younger) were twice as likely as Baby Boomers (adults 38 to 56 years of age) and three times more likely than Elders (people 57 or older) to cite emotional satisfaction as their yardstick of success,” read the survey.

Seven percent said spiritual experiences were the key to success, while 8 percent said good health meant one was successful.

“Catholics were twice as likely as Protestants or people of non-Christian faiths to cite good health as their measure of success,” according to the survey. “Spirituality was most frequently cited by evangelicals. In fact, nearly half of the evangelical group (43%) equated spiritual development with success—six times the national norm.”

The survey also indicated that faith impacted an individual’s definition of success.

Nearly nine in 10 evangelicals (86 percent) said “family health, faith development and making a difference in the world” combined to make one successful. Only 47 percent of non-evangelical born again Christians, 40 percent of self-described Christians who are not born again, 33 percent of atheists and 29 percent of people aligned with a non-Christian faith said the same.

“Similarly, about half of all Protestants (49%) and Catholics (47%) indicated that this parcel of factors would fit their concept of life success,” according to the survey.

Jodi Mathews is BCE’s communications director.

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