Doing It All For Him
Sometimes, we get lost.
We forget why we’re doing what we’re doing. Our intentions, however good they might be at the start, become contaminated with pride and ego. This happens to the best of us, including those in social service organisations.
We work hard, often putting in long hours, for recognition, for praise, for glory. And why wouldn’t we? In our world today, we’re constantly bombarded with messages lauding ambition as a ‘virtue’ to live by. Wealthy and successful people are placed on pedestals. Books, videos, talks, you name it, aim to teach us habits to get noticed, secure that promotion, and lead a life of luxury.
Ambition is good. It motivates a person to better himself. We can be both Catholic and ambitious. These are some excuses we might make.
But the hard truth is this: Ambition is self-serving. It focuses on oneself for one’s own benefit – not for the clients’ or patients’, and certainly not for God’s. Pope Francis captured this sentiment most aptly, “Ambition and careerism are incompatible with Christian discipleship; honour, success, fame and worldly triumphs are incompatible with the logic of Christ crucified” (Pope Francis, 2015).
We experience the harmful effects of worldly ambition most strongly in our relationships. Consumed by the unhealthy desire to succeed at any cost, we use, step on, or push away people whom we are called to love like a brother and sister. Nothing hurts more than realising that each time we do so, we crucify Christ all over again, telling Him, “I know what you want, but I don’t care. I want what I want.” There can be no peace or joy. Only anxiety, suspicion, envy, and aggression.
To be clear, letting go of our ambition does not justify sliding into apathy or mediocrity in our work. The Catholic Church recognises the dignity of work and encourages us to work responsibly and effectively (St. John Paul II, 1981). But our motivation must be to bring glory to God.
Reading our local news from the past two weeks, we take heart that our millennials today are driven by the desire to care for their parents and social issues such as poverty and helping our seniors (Choo, 2019). We are also inspired by former financial consultant Steven Goh’s decision to set aside his career ambition to serve the community (Ho, 2019). What about you? What motivates you?
As we enter into Holy Week, I want to spend time reflecting on Pope Francis’ description of a Servant: “The Servant is not someone of illustrious lineage; he is despised, shunned by all, a man of sorrows. He does not do great things or make memorable speeches; instead, he fulfils God’s plan through his humble, quiet presence and his suffering” (Pope Francis, 2015). And, to pray the Litany of Humility. It’s a difficult prayer that never fails to hit my ego hard. That’s why it’s so important.
- Singapore’s millennials are practical, non-materialistic and care for community: OCBC survey (Today Online, 3 Apr 2019)
- Will you shop at an online supermarket that donates proceeds to needy Singapore beneficiaries? (Channel NewsAsia, 7 Apr 2019)
Jorain Ng is part of the Advocacy and Research team at Caritas Singapore. She loves all things Harry Potter and the Lord of the Rings. She also has a deep love for nature and enjoys binge-watching nature documentaries.