Wee Scoops

Measure for Measure

What should our ambitions be?

Do you have an ambition? What is it?

Do you want to write a book, be remembered, be the best at something? Do you want to own a certain thing, live in a certain place, meet a certain person?

With the Olympics beginning to warm up down south, I am faced once again with my relative lack of ambition and my general risk aversion. I never really saw the point in going for gold – in sport and academia, at least.

I am mediocre at a great many things and I am a big fan of mediocrity in action. A poorly constructed story is better than a non-existent story (maybe you disagree!?). A badly daubed painting is better than an intention to paint. A vigorougly strummed well-meant song on an out-of-tune guitar is better than nothing, if you are trying to have a sing-a-long.

But to go for perfection?

Maybe it is just because I am a jack-of-all-trades-(except-numeracy)-and-a-master-of-none that I feel that way about excellence. Is it latent sour grapes  – that I didn’t get a first at Uni, that I am not starring at the Olympics, that I didn’t travel the world being the first violin with some Symphony Orchestra?

What should ambition look like? The bible advises:

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.

Philippians chapter 2 verse 3

It’s odd that ‘ambition’ here seems to be a bad thing. Well, maybe it is the “selfish” that makes the ambition bad. I suppose it is good if someone wants to be the best at something so that others benefit -the best doctor, the best accountant, the best research scientist – they want to be the best in their field because the result will be good for others. Maybe ensuring that one’s ambitions are utilitarian is the way forward.

I think this is a great ambition:

“… make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you…”

1 Thessalonians 4 vs 11

A quiet life. I suppose that is when one avoids ending up in the papers. Like a kind of inverse fame. It is just getting on with it and getting through it.

When we decide what our ambitions are, are they selfish? Or are they utilitatian? Are they for fame or anonymity?

What should our ambitions be?


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9 thoughts on “What should our ambitions be?

  1. I think that it is quite difficult when you can do a lot of different things well but not having a singular thing that truly pulls at you. Jack of all trades and master of none is a very good place to be. Ambition, is it really a healthy thing to have? I think that ambition is different then trying your best at what you are doing .

  2. theotheri on said:

    Oh Sanstorm, what a lovely serious searching post.

    For what it’s worth, my problem with the word “ambition” is that it so often involves comparison with others. But what I think we should each be striving for is to be a fully what we each uniquely are – not to be better or worse than anybody else. It’s a lifetime enough to become who we each have been given the potential to be.

    Best of the best – Terry

  3. When I was tutoring a college English student, she faced the question: Who was more ambitios, Hamlet or his wife?
    Well, I first looked up the word and it has its roots in the same soil as “ambling” and “ambulatory”. It means going out and about to get or achieve. I think of a door-to-door politician. So the answer to the college question was that Hamlet was more ambitious. His wife was willing to watch and wait for everyone else to do her dirty work.
    We often have desires we are not willing to go for. Ambition to work with the hands and lead a quiet life reminds me of another verse: Humble your self before the Lord and He will exalt you in due time.
    It’s not that exalting is wrong, but that we achieve it by quietly minding our own business and letting others find us award-worthy.
    My ambition should be to do my best at what I feel I am called to do. If I do my best, the Lord will see to it that I receive the note that I deserve.
    My best might not be as good as your best, and therefore the world might not notice me as much as you, but in due time, we all receive what we worked for, I think.
    I really loved this post. Thanks for it.

  4. …sorry, I seem to have been taken over by an ellipsis monster…

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