Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
I have been reading these verses over and over the past few days/weeks. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in things–tasks to complete, to-do lists to accomplish, career ladders to climb, people to see. While I don’t feel we are called to be total people-pleasers, I fear sometimes we can sway too far the other way. If people-pleasing is a natural tendency, sometimes we overcompensate by trying to fight off that urge to people-please but forget to continue to truly value others. I think it’s healthy to have boundaries and to take care of ourselves. Sometimes it means saying “no” to a good thing. If we were always running on empty, it’d be pretty hard to be effective at serving others.
Yet it still says here quite plainly to “value others above yourselves” in humility. Whew. That’s a tall order. So how do I find the balance? What does that mean for today and tomorrow and the next day? How can I better put someone’s interests before mine? How does that impact my decisions and my speech?
The first verse is also incredibly striking– “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.” I think the adjective attached to the word ambition matters. Having goals and ambitions can be good as it motivates and inspires us, but selfish ambition is what we are told to avoid. Finding that line between ambition and selfish ambition isn’t easy. I think our society often praises selfish ambition, but that doesn’t make it right. I have to remember to ask, where does this ambition come from? Who does it serve? What does this ambition lead to?
I don’t know the answers. The best I can do is to continue to read and pray. I know I fall short here. All the time. But I want to continue to think through what it truly means. I want to live in humility, I want to toss away selfish ambition, I want to look to the interests of others.