Famous and Flat

The town where I work, Livingston in Scotland, has just given birth to the latest star of reality TV 'Leon Jackson', the winner of this year's X-Factor. I must confess to having watched many of the heats to see if the local boy would win. But is he happy?

He cancelled a performance at the major Hogmanay event in Edinburgh and has not been seen much since. It may be that he is spending a very sensible few months with a vocal coach maturing his voice for a long career. But I do hope it is not going to be all a big flash in the pan and then nothing. Leon's story is one from rags to riches, but so many celebrities who take this journey seem to end up deeply unhappy. Some have even taken their own lives.

Why are the famous so unhappy?

Jesus famously said, 'What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world by forfeits his own soul?' [Matthew 16v26]. He was talking in part eternally, but I think by 'soul' he also means our day-to-day satisfaction, our ability to see the fruits of the Kingdom in our own lifetimes [v28!].

Jesus here speaks a truism - that it is very hard to have it all and still be happy - but what it is about having it all that leads to misery? Why do the famous go so quickly from feeling fabulous to feeling flat? Some things are not their fault and some are:

  1. It's not their fault, but no-one tells them what to do. Their lives are full of Yes-Men and no one ever dares to contradict the person who tomorrow could be the latest superstar. All their wishes are acceded to 'yesterday' - even if they are completely insane. Yet, there is something beautiful about being in submission to another, about having your will give way to theirs. I have just got married and can tell you that doing what my wife wants is more pleasurable than doing what I want - I never thought I would say that, but it is true! Jesus, in the Garden of Gethsemane, said, 'Not as I will, but as you will.' [Matthew 26v39]. Submission is beautiful - and it is a path to mental health that the famous do not follow.
  2. Also not their fault, but no-one values them for who they are. They are only ever as good as their last album or film - and this means that one day they will become another washed-up D-list celeb, settling for roles in commercials and opening their new local supermarket. Jesus love the destitute and poor and excluded and marginalised of society. He did not hate the rich, but almost seemed to love more those who could do nothing for him, those who had no worthy value, those on the downhill slope. Charity is beautiful - something celebrities are expected to give to but never receive.
  3. Lastly, and this one their own fault, many try to live without God, believing the crown that is on their head is the only crown. Miss World is not Miss Universe - there is a throne above! American Idol may have the praises of men, but if you shut their lips the rocks will not cry out! [Luke 19v40]. Psalm 33v13-19 speaks of a God who looks down from heaven on man?s plans to conquer all saying, 'No King is saved by the size of his army, no warrior escapes by his great strength,' and no celebrity will live life to the full because of a platinum disc sale. You cannot buy happiness, but many celebrities try.

There are, of course, happy celebrities - some have discovered at how to love at peace with themselves, their fellow man and even their God. But many follow these three paths to misery and dissatisfaction...

Rob Waller, 23/12/2007