Whitney Houston died broke in spite of the hundreds of millions of dollars that she earned.
Tragedy like this makes it difficult not to believe in a curse associated with talent, success, money, power, fame.
The human condition is fragile even as it thinks itself invincible. It’s like driving a powerful auto. You hit the accelerator; your tires squeal; and you leave the jalopy behind you breathing your dust and smoke. The car has suddenly become an extension of you; its power, yours. You smirk and say, “Aha, look how powerful ‘I’ am!”
Because success comes so easily, and sometimes so early, to the super-gifted, they may forget that it is, in fact, a gift. They may think instead it’s something intrinsic to them, that they achieved it on their own—and not by God’s gift and blessing.
That kind of hubris is our downfall. Because all of us—perhaps especially the famous, the super-rich, the powerful, the wildly successful—are subject, as Ecclesiastes reminds us, to time and chance.
The very qualities that make us successful in one area blind us in other areas. The energy we expend developing and reveling in our talents isn’t there to expend loving our children, or mending our sorrows, or guarding our assets.
I’m writing this for myself mostly. Not that I believe I’ll ever be as successful as Whitney Houston, nor that my gift is anywhere near as great. But I’ve known the curse of success on a small scale. I believed the uphill climb was my own doing, although I wouldn’t concede responsibility for crashing.
Eventually, I realized I had it backwards: God raised me up and I had thrown myself down. Pride did it. Selfishness. Supercilious treatment of others. Forgetfulness of the Giver.
Too many artists’ final gift to us is priceless; it’s a cautionary tale. Never forget it.
All you are, all you have, comes from above. Pride destroys it. Gratitude preserves it.