Sunday, November 21, 2010

Ambition and Guilt

Lately, my blog has been full of my desire and plans to return to school and become a nursing home administrator. It'd be a fair assessment to say that working with and helping the elderly is a passion of mine. Becoming an administrator is something I've had in my mind for 15 years. As I've reported before, I feel compelled, to do this. To finally be moving forward, well, my excitement isn't easy to contain. The other day while explaining my plans, someone told me they sounded very ambitious.

And I knew it wasn't a compliment. Not for a woman, from a woman. At least it didn't feel like a compliment. It felt like a jab. But maybe it's because I feel guilty. Guilty because currently, I'm a stay-at-home mom of 4 children. And there are some people who would wonder why in the world I'm going back to school and making plans to go to work when I have all these Little People. They would argue that my calling is here, at home, to take care of them. Right now, I can't handle the little joke that I'm "abandoning" my children for my "ambition". There are those who might argue that ambition in a woman with children is misplaced. A bad thing. That her place is at home. Period. Paragraph. That God wouldn't have given her children if she were meant for any other thing.

But if it's a bad thing, why is it so fulfilling to me? Why do I feel so renewed when I'm working for the betterment of my residents? Why do I feel like I can mother better when I'm finished?

I did an informal internet survey by posting on my Facebook page this question: Is ambition in a woman considered a positive or negative trait? The two men who answered, answered unequivocally, that it was a positive trait. My husband was floored that I would even suggest that ambition was anything but a good thing. But there a couple of women who said it depended and a couple of women who said it was absolutely a good thing and even one person who pointed out that the aggressive woman is often labelled a bitch and the aggressive man is ambitious.

So is it a gender issue?

Does it even matter?

Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary defines ambition as 1 a: an ardent desire for rank, fame or power; b: desire to achieve a particular end.

Seems even the dictionary can't make up its mind. What do we really think of when we think of ambition? Is it the general desire to achieve a particular end or is the ardent desire for rank, fame or power? Does it even matter?

But I'm not going to feel guilty about it anymore, whatever anyone else thinks. I was lucky enough to hear a sermon this morning about being wired for passionate living. That it challenges, fulfills both me and others and sets me free from the burden of comparison. That through grace, I have been uniquely gifted, as an individual, and I am empowered by God. I know that through serving others in the way I am wired, I myself will be refreshed and renewed. That, if I am serving in the right way and in the right area, I will feel compelled and driven to serve. I won't have to be manipulated or shamed into doing it.

It was as if I had received a divine sign from God to press on and do what He called me to do when I was 20 years old. No more guilt, and if you say to me, "That's ambitious!" I'm going to agree. No matter how you mean it.


TheMuddledMarketPlace said...

hi( and please excuse me bouncing in here like this)

It seems to me that there are two words being used here:
and Someone Elses

Someone Elses word was Ambitious
Your Word was Passion

I don't know if Ambition is Godly or not, but then again I don't know if the neccesity to shop is Godly or not but I do know that I have to do it...

However Passion?
You betcha. Passion is from God and my strong guess is that this passion is both given from God and will be nurtured by God.

You will know how to parent and work. God gave you brains to work that one out. Enjoy walking into all he has for you and enjoy your parenting as well.

( now tiptoeing away very quietly and closing the door softly behind me.....)

Carrie said...

Really, Georgia, you are a gifted writer! I think what you're wrestling with is what we all wrestle with ... if we're honest. I think as Christians we need to get our eyes off of each other and plant them on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith, Who is more than able to lead us on a radical journey of discipleship and serving the least of these ... and it just may not look like the comfortable, convenient, American-dream made church. Just sayin' ... {and wrestling with these ideas in my own life right now!} Love you, friend!

Oilfield Trash said...

You already know how I feel but I will tell you again. Yes ambition is a very positive trait for a woman.

As for your situation, I think it is great that you are going to go back to school to fulfill your dreams.

And if someone has a problem with you doing it and also mentions something about your ambition, then the hell with them. Anyone who can't get behind you on this and support you, is someone you don't need in your life to begin with.

Anonymous said...


I'll say it again: I love your honesty! SO refreshing. Have you ever taken a jab at someone? I think're honest and up front and I like it.

I don't think I'm quite prepared to answer your question, but I'm going to throw some things out there. First, ambition, meaning seeking power and fame, is not the heart of Christ for a man or a woman. Society likes ambition, not sure what God thinks on it because I haven't studied it. I do know that when Moses started seeking more power than what God gave him, he was disciplined for it. I also know we are to seek HIS fame and rely on HIS power.

Next, obedience does not mean ambition. Seems to me that you are obeying God and using the gifts and passions he's given you. If you are doing this to gain power over the residents or to seek fame of folks, then it would sound ambitious to me, too. Sometimes ambitious can mean big or out of reach. Jeff and I made a decision this week that one person labeled ambitious. It did seem impossible, but we were obeying God so no matter what it was labeled, it was the right thing to do. Your goals are big, but hello! We serve a big God. Go for it!

Last, and probably the most polarizing, is that ambition is not reserved for folks in the working world. Many parents seek power and fame for their children. Many mom only moms that I know desperately seek popularity, best dressed, most successful, smartest, etc for their kids. If that's not ambition, I don't know what it is. And I would say it's the opposite of pointing our children to holiness. We might can do both, but I'm not too sure. That will require some thought.

Can mom only moms point their children to the Lord? Yep. Can working moms? Sure. Do all mom only moms point their children to holy living? Uh, no. Do all working moms? Nope. The way I figure it, we all better look to Christ, obey his directions, and get our butts in gear serving him! That's about it.

Goodbye now.


Georgia said...

I am honest, but I have a mean streak, too. I get my feeling hurt very easily and I do remember those hurts. I crave approval like some kind of idiot. But I also have the gift of mercy. Go figure.

I am not looking to gain any power or fame for myself. I am looking to put myself in the best possible position to affect positive change for nursing home residents. Without His power and favor, this is just a pipe dream and impossible to achieve. After all, I'm a married, mother of 4 small children, nearly 34 years old who is going to have to schedule my classes around the rest of my already full life and a husband who is also going to school.

I guess my big issue is my own internal turmoil and sorting through the lies I have believed that there is only one purpose for a woman and that's to be a stay-at-home mom. I guess this blog post is serving as official notice that I've figured out the calling for my life, I'm not buying the myth as it pertains to me and to let others know I don't need an interpreter.

Shanon said...

We've had this conversation before, I think, when discussing homeschooling. You know how I feel about doing what you know in your heart is the calling God places on your life. Regardless of what others think you "should" be doing, your obligation is to use the gifts God has given you in a way that serves His people and His kingdom. I have battled the same demons for the last 12 years. If I'm called to teach, why not teach my own children? Why must I be in the public schools and put my own kids in day care? You are going to become more and more familiar with this particular demon unless you do what it sounds like you've done. Banish it. That voice that tells you you're selfish, that your children are your only priority, that you are destined to be disappointment to God and others if you don't live up to some design someone else made up of a perfect mom-it's all lies. You do what you believe you were created to do. Your children will see that passion in you, and learn from it. I'm proud of you!

Anonymous said...

And Miss Manners wouldn't want you to act like you took it anyway. ;D

If it makes you happy, it will make you a better mother.