The value of a man, however, should be seen in what he gives and not in what he has been able to receive.
We come into this world with nothing. Everything that we accumulate during our lives is received, directly or indirectly, from someone else. Even those things that we create ourselves come to us through the efforts of others: the materials, the knowledge, the training, the opportunity, the love. These days many of our cultures idolize something called success, a concept often more or less synonymous with wealth that is the accumulation of profit. But profit is something that accumulates only when you receive more than you give. It is your “net worth,” a term that struck me as wrong-headed and ugly the first time I heard it (from a friend who was getting a business minor). The feeling hasn’t changed since then.
Of course it goes without saying that if the value of a person derives from what he or she gives, rather than what he or she has been able to receive, then the sentiment must go double for what he or she has taken by deception or by force.
So look around. Who do you see who is worth something. Who is that if it is not the “successful” people? Or more to the point, how much am I worth? How much do I want to be worth? If it is more than what I am worth now, what can I give?
Quote at the top from an address by Albert Einstein, 1936, in The Einstein Reader, New York: Citadel, 1984, pg. 30.