James, a little book of wisdom: what to do with ambition
Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbour bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.
But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness. James 3:13-18
My random musings:
From where I sit, I look around the global stage and I don’t see a whole lot of wisdom being played out. I see self-seeking, self-serving politicians who no one trusts to do the right thing. No one trusts the promises they make. I see major companies creating false truth so that they can get away with exploiting the earth and her people. I see the rich getting away with crimes because they can pay for the best lawyers. I see the media and advertising feeding dissatisfaction and envy and selfish ambition to make us unhappy with who we are and always wanting more.
That is the way of the world in which we live. That is the world’s wisdom.
And I want no part of that.
I notice here that James does not say that all ambition is wrong. It’s selfish ambition that leads to chaos and exploitation: the kind that says ‘I know what I want and I will trample over you to get there’. True ambition has to go hand in hand with humility, a humility that is prepared to admit mistakes, allow others their moment to shine, never take anything for granted, express gratitude – and succeed well. This is not a false humility, the kind of false humility I was brought up with, where you can never say that you are good at anything, never take pride in what you have achieved, never believe that you have got what it takes. False humility puts you down all the time (and others too), is hugely critical, keeps you in your place, undermines your confidence. It will never allow you to shine and to own who you were created to be.
I’ve done a huge amount of work in this area. One way that might be of interest is to recognise those moments of envy and jealousy for what they are: I will only ever be envious of something that someone has that I really want too. That makes envy a great indicator of my buried dreams and desires that I can then use to point me in the right direction for my life. I don’t need to bring that other person down, but actually thank them (maybe not in person!) for showing me what I value and wish to aim for! Self awareness is key here: when you find yourself resenting the success or actions or possessions of someone else, stop yourself from reacting from that place of negative energy and instead turn it into a positive revelation of what’s in your own heart. What are these negative thoughts and feelings actually teaching you right now?
The wisdom that comes from heaven treats others well. That’s the test of all that we do. True success, the only success that really matters, will always include treating others well.
My question for you (can be taken in one of two very different ways – try reading it both ways, both positive and negative):
What is it that you really want out of life and what are you prepared to do to get it?