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What Makes A Person Great

Updated on September 3, 2011

"Be not afraid of greatness; some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them." William Shakespeare


We each strive to achieve some measure of greatness in this life. And why shouldn't we? We have unlimited potential for greatness, each one of us, because of our extensive pedigree. We are children of God, with the potential to become like Him. Realizing this makes us understand that with Him, nothing is impossible and greatness is within reach. We are taught to strive for perfection and even instructed in the fifth chapter of Matthew, verse 48:

Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

Still, we wonder what makes a person great.


American Idol.
American Idol.
Hogan Knows Best.
Hogan Knows Best.

The Worlds Standard of Measurement


We live in a world that seems to worship its own kind of greatness and produce its own kind of heroes. Popular television shows like American Idol, Hogan Knows Best, The Bachelor, and reality television shows that are anything but reality, capitalize on this exact thing. Oprah Winfrey needs only mention a product on her "Favorite Things" list and the sales skyrocket. Athletes' are paid exorbitant amounts of money while teachers struggle on fixed income schedules. We have video games like Guitar Hero and Worlds of War Craft, where one becomes a "hero" by beating the game. It makes one wonder at our standard of measurement when it comes to greatness.

Unfair Comparisons

"It's true that most of the world's heroes don't last very long in the public mind; but, nevertheless, there is never a lack of champions and great achievers. We hear almost daily of athletes breaking records; scientists inventing marvelous new devices, machines, and processes; and doctors saving lives in new ways. We are constantly being exposed to exceptionally gifted musicians and entertainers and to unusually talented artists, architects, and builders. Magazines, billboards, and television commercials bombard us with pictures of individuals with perfect teeth and flawless features, wearing stylish clothes, and doing whatever it is that "successful" people do.

Because we are being constantly exposed to the world's definition of greatness, it is understandable that we might make comparisons between what we are and what others are-or seem to be-and also between what we have and what others have. Although it is true that making comparisons can be beneficial and may motivate us to accomplish much good and to improve our lives, yet we often allow unfair and improper comparisons to destroy our happiness when they cause us to feel unfulfilled or inadequate or unsuccessful. Sometimes, because of these feelings, we are led into error and dwell on our failures while ignoring aspects of our lives that may contain elements of true greatness." (Howard W. Hunter)

Unnoticed Acts

Simply giving consistent effort in the little things in day-to-day life leads to true greatness. Little deeds of kindness and tasks of service or sacrifice given for another is another true quality of greatness. The sacrifice it takes to be a loving parent, a true friend, and a faithful companion are also marks of true greatness. Loving the Lord with all your heart, might, mind and soul and striving to help others find his love is an act of greatness. These things do not usually receive the attention or the adulation of the world, but the Lord who sees all fixes the reward.

Matthew 6

Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.

2 Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

3 But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth:

4 That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.

Remember Who We Are

"To do one's best in the face of the commonplace struggles of life-and possibly in the face of failure-and to continue to endure and to persevere in the ongoing difficulties of life when those struggles and tasks contribute to others' progress and happiness and one's own eternal salvation-this is true greatness." (Howard W. Hunter)

There is a part in all of us that wants to achieve a measure of greatness in this life that is how we are made. There are many people who have already achieved great things and have made great accomplishments. These accomplishments have given us many opportunities for entertainment, culture, progress and excitement in our lives. In no way do I mean to diminish their worth, for in the correct light these are great achievements.

We should be encouraged to reach our potential and become the best we can, but we must always remember who we are. We must focus more clearly on the things of life that are of the greatest worth. Worldly greatness, that is most of the time just temporary fame, can at times pull at us and tempt us to compromise our standards. We have seen individuals who have become successful and wealthy as if overnight, but true greatness only is achieved by persistence and long suffering. There is no such thing as instant greatness; true lasting greatness is a long-term process, with occasional setbacks. It is a consistent path of small, sometimes ordinary or mundane steps over a long period of time.

“Frequently it is the commonplace tasks we perform that have the greatest positive effect on the lives of others."

Serving others.
Serving others.

Forgotten Heroes

There are many forgotten heroes among all of us. People who consistently do things they ought to be doing. These are everyday people who are reliable, honest, diligent, and committed. These are fathers who do not shirk their responsibilities to their families. These are mothers who spend long hours investing in the future of their children. These are people who are hard working in their daily tasks, but who also serve their God by serving others. These are the Shepherds true sheep.

Thus, true greatness is never a result of just chance; greatness requires the development of character. It is a result of correct decisions made in everyday choices between good and evil that ultimately shows clearly what we are made of, what we truly value, and who we really are. In evaluating our lives, we need to not only look at what we have achieved but how we achieved it. We each have different conditions in our lives we live under, we are each different and unique. We have different starting points in life with different levels of opportunity, skills, talents, challenges and constraints. It is what we do with what we are given, and the positive effect that we can have on others that truly shows greatness. It is this aspect that can help us to understand why some of the simple, common, ordinary work of life should be valued so highly.

For me true greatness is summed up in the words of the Master himself when he said:

Matthew 20

25 ... Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them.

26 But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister;

27 And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant:

28 Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

Yes, this is true greatness.

Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great. ~ Mark Twain


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