Do You Call it Ambition or Arrogance?

If there’s 20 seconds on the game clock and you want the ball so you can score the game winner, do you call it ambition or arrogance?

If there’s a key vision to be cast in your organization and you say, “I’d like to give that keynote speech to the team”, do you call it ambition or arrogance?

If there’s a problem in the world that you think needs a new perspective to solve, and you start an organization to do just that, do you call it ambition or arrogance?

What about if it’s not you, but it’s your peer?  What about if it’s someone who answers to you? What about if it’s someone who could do your job?  What about if it’s something you think is expected to be your job, but you know would really be better done by someone else in your organization… at least this time?

I don’t think this is a hypothetical question.  I don’t think it’s a rare occurrence either.   I think all day long, in all kinds of business places, relationships, and playing fields, people are doing a dance:  longing to fuel their personal ambition and accusing others around them of prideful arrogance when they long for it too.  I think as a high school pastor, I am constantly trying to decide which of these two I see in myself, my peers, and the students I work with as we dream big dreams.

Here’s the difference:

ARROGANCE: is a selfish promotion of me for my own internal benefit and external reward.

  • so if you want the ball for the camera, it’s arrogant.
  • if you want the speech for the applause, it’s arrogant. 
  • if you want to start the organization to prove yourself better than others, it’s arrogant.

AMBITION: is an intense desire to make a difference to a degree that it often propels the individual into influence by default.

  • so if you have proven yourself to be the best scorer, it’s ambition.
  • if you are a communicator who is passionate and clear on the vision for the speech, it’s ambition.
  • if you are the one who can’t sleep at night because of the problem, it’s ambition.

AND IF YOU PASS UP ASKING FOR STUFF FOR FEAR OF ARROGANCE, IT’S NOT HUMILITY, IT’S APATHY.

think about it.

Moses wasn’t called humble for telling God he wasn’t good enough to do the job.  Nehemiah wasn’t called arrogant for wanting to rebuild the wall and asking for money and personal leave time to get it done.

So pray about your vision. Hold it before God with an open hand.  Then run after your dreams.  Go pitch the book proposal.  Go score the goal.  Go play the song or start that band. Go run the race.  Go make that phone call.  Go pour gasoline on your ambition and cold water on arrogance.

Please don’t just sit there, GO CHANGE THE WORLD!

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Brian Berry
Brian Berry is a proven veteran of student ministry. He serves as the generation ministries pastor at Journey Community Church near San Diego, California, where he works directly with the high school ministry and oversees a staff that is responsible for infants through teens. Brian is also a frequent blogger, writes and teaches for youth workers, and is the author of both As for Me and My Crazy House and Criticism Bites. He speaks at various conferences, camps, and retreats for a variety of audiences. He is married to Shannon, and they have five kids.