I didn’t think that I was selfish or proud when it came to my job. In fact, I thought I was humble. After all, I freely admitted my mistakes. I never assumed that people thought highly of me. Wasn’t that humility?
Humility, I am learning, is a state of the heart, rather than actions. Sometimes an action can seem humble, but a person’s heart isn’t lining up, which was my case.
The truth was that most of my actions had a selfish motive. I offered to help others, said yes to projects, and joined committees because I wanted people’s approval. I felt invisible and wanted the higher-ups to see me.
The Bible Says . . .
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.”Philippians 2:3-7
I took these verses seriously (or so I liked to think), but if I felt convicted about my behavior, I was full of excuses that it didn’t apply at work. I work in a corporate environment, after all. Puffing myself up was par for the course. I didn’t want to be a servant, I wanted to climb higher! Paul clearly missed that disclaimer, Does not apply if you work in a big corporation.
I was nothing like Jesus! Can you imagine being the CEO of a company (which is certainly a dim comparison to God) and putting yourself on the level of an entry-level position? I’m mid-level management – not even on the level of a CEO – and I couldn’t bring myself down. I convinced myself I was a “servant” because I mentored other managers, and I truly wanted others to succeed . . . so long as their success did not surpass my own.
This is the exact opposite of humility. Looking back, I can see how the Holy Spirit was trying to show me this, but the scales were over my eyes, and I couldn’t see it at the time. Sometimes it takes a real eye-opener for me to grasp what God is trying to tell me.
Where Does it End?
In addition to puffing myself up, I took on more work than I wanted, and I felt resentment about it. Instead of risking losing favor and saying “no,” I kept on taking on new projects, and I used these opportunities to toot my own praise. Now, I don’t think there is anything wrong with having a strong grasp of my strengths and weaknesses and being honest about those, but, again, my motive was corrupt. The more projects that I took on, the more entitled I felt for a promotion or at least a pat on the back from the higher-ups. I lived for their praise.
At an awards ceremony, where I won Manager of the Year, I felt the Lord say to me, “When will your need for praise end?” I saw other managers there in positions that are higher on the corporate ladder than mine, and He said, “You could become one of them, but once you’re at the top, how will you be satisfied when there is no where else to climb?” Ouch! That hurt and made me contemplate my job. Was I really only happy if I was receiving praise? My eyes were slowly opening, but they weren’t quite open.
My eyes opened when a co-worker received an offer for a position, and I didn’t. Now, you would think that I would be happy for my co-worker. But my pride would not allow it. I was angry and bitter.
Now here comes the kicker, the part that I really don’t want to admit because it reveals just how corrupt my heart was, I didn’t even want the job. I didn’t want the job that would require more travel and more hours. I could’ve applied for it, and possibly I would’ve gotten it, but I didn’t want to. The fact that I wasn’t considered first triggered my reaction.
My pride hurt my co-worker. If I was this upset about a promotion for him, did this mean that I didn’t think he was capable, he wondered.
Can you imagine how awful that would be if a new supervisor saw something good in you and offered you a promotion and your co-worker and friend focused too much on themselves to be happy for you?
I want to put a palm to my face when I think of this now. That’s the thing about pride, it can make me feel so entitled to behave badly, yet in hindsight, I never feel justified. Pride will never leave you feeling proud when it’s done with you.
A Servant’s Heart
What this experience revealed to me is that I couldn’t deal with being number two. I came unglued. I had puffed myself up so highly that I couldn’t handle perceived rejection. Suddenly, I questioned everything about my job. Was I named manager of the year out of obligation? When we received a glowing letter from HR about our collective work, was it really just him they were talking about? I had no self-esteem.
Since my job was my identity, I felt lost and depressed. I didn’t know who I was. This isn’t the first time that I’ve been in the throws of an identity crisis, but it was the most surprising time because I didn’t realize how much I cared about what people at my work thought of me.
The Good that God Does
The great thing about God is that He can turn our weakest moments into spotlights of His strength. It surely wasn’t comfortable seeing myself react in such a strong way when I didn’t get my way, but it revealed my heart, and I was able to bring that to God. I began to see how little I knew about God’s vast love for me.
I currently work at the same job, so now what? Now, I let go of my selfish ambition, and I let it go again. What I mean by that is that my desire to climb rises within, but now I check in with God. What is my motive? Do you want this for me? How do you want me to respond, Lord?
In God’s economy, the highest rank is at the bottom, and that is determined by one’s heart, not title. I’ve seen people in great positions of power who are truly humble. I’ve seen people, such as myself, who act like they should run the world though they’re low on the totem pole. I’m learning to be ambitious in a new way . . . eager for my will to line up with God’s.
Today, I will align my ambition with God’s.
Being the least, is a great opportunity.