Ambition Needs The Killer Instinct.
If you can understand him, old Will Shakespeare gave us some great insights. Try this one for size: When Macbeth had his ambition stirred by three witches pointing out he could become king by assassinating his faithful lord, he drew back from committing the crime.
His hardened wife read his letter hinting at his emotions and mused of him: “Thou wouldst be great; Art not without ambition, but without the illness that should attend it.”
What is the illness which selfish ambition produces? It is a willingness and readiness to drop principle, ignore conscience, and to bow down to the whims and desires of ourselves or others for the sake of securing personal advantage. It stirs up the worst aspects of human nature, fosters greed and compromise, trashes our conscience and destroys our character.
We live in a world where the common way to get ahead is to climb over others. Not surprisingly, the same behavior shows up in churches despite the obvious conflict this produces: it’s hard to put someone else’s interests ahead of your own when you are trying to climb over them. And then there’s those awkward words Jesus spoke, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers (in life) lord it over others . . . Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.”
So what happens when we follow Jesus’ instruction but others take advantage of us, climbing all over us? Should we just passively take it and become doormats or should we start a major war to correct them?
Human nature is creative: there are some who manipulate their way to power by being weak and easily offended while others pander to them to keep them happy, consoling themselves that they are obeying the directive to serve when, in reality, they are nurturing yet another form of bad behavior.
Maybe the need to control others is much harder to contain than we think. The overbearing control freak is easy to spot but we have trouble detecting the person who uses “weakness” as their method to get their own way.
Whenever the church moves toward the corporate mentality and corporate systems we find the “survival of the fittest” mindset turns up to destroy the intention Jesus has for his church. Other churches stay small and ineffective, avoiding change which will upset the “weaker members” (some of those weaker members have been Christians for decades but they have never grown past being easily offended and have become experts at avoiding change.) Both extremes are harmful; both demand that we look at ourselves to see if we have bought into the wrong world-view, both reveal the same sickness: I want it my way. In the dog-eat-dog-world we get annihilated for challenging the top dogs. In the keep-everyone-happy-world we get labelled as abusive and unChristian if we dare to challenge the “weak” to get their act together. So we just leave it all alone and passively join the ranks of the obedient. We passively watch others challenge the system and take their fate. We pretend that all is well and quietly accept that the church is ineffective and can never match the high ideals that Jesus taught. We learn to shrug and joke about how the church would be perfect if there were no people in it. We resign ourselves to the understanding that the ineffective church is totally unattractive to anyone who “doesn’t understand it” and we stop telling others about the wonderful life of faith we have found (since it is embarrassing and at best no different from what they already have. We realize we are in the world and conform to its ways and standards – who wants a faith like that?)
Makes you wonder what might happen if we each decided to live with the attitude of serving each other and called the control freaks on their behavior. Could the church become a group that people would actually want to be part of? Would it release power and spread freedom, promote healing and transformation, actually fulfill the intentions Jesus had for it? Hmm!
- How To Really Get Ahead In Life. (citesimon.com)
Posted on July 10, 2012, in Active faith, Leadership, Relationships and tagged ambition, Christianity, church, controlling others, countercultural vision, getting ahead, Jesus, Macbeth, self-promotion. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.