© 2005, Douglas Jacoby

In Gordon MacDonald''s excellent Ordering Your Private World (Nashville: Oliver Nelson, 1985), the author distinguishes between the driven person and the called person. The driven person (King Saul, Saul of Tarsus) is fueled by ambition, rivalry, and ego. The called person (John the Baptist, the apostle Paul) has a true sense of God''s will and does not take things into his own hands. One walks in the flesh, the other in the Spirit. My purpose is not to quibble about words. "Driven" could just as well have a positive connotation, and all of us are driven by something. The real question: By what?

While I want to recommend the entire book, here I reproduce only part of chapter 3. I found it quite challenging and thought provoking. Perhaps you will, too. The words below are not mine; they are MacDonald''s.

(1) A driven person is most often gratified only by accomplishment. Somewhere in the process of maturation this person discovers that the only way he can feel good about himself and his world is to accumulate accomplishments. This discovery may be the result of formative influences at an early age as a child, affirmation and approval may have been received from a parent or influential mentor only when something had been finished. A psychology of achievement captures the heart in circumstances like that.  He has little appreciation for the process leading toward results.

(2) A driven person is preoccupied with the symbols of accomplishment -- He will be aware of the symbols of status: titles, office size and location, positions on organizational charts, and special privileges...

(3) A driven person is usually caught in the uncontrolled pursuit of expansion -- and of course this means that his attitude toward those around him is much the same. He is rarely pleased with the progress of his peers or subordinates. He lives in a constant state of uneasiness and restlessness. There is usually no sign that he will ever be satisfied with himself or anyone else.

(4) Driven people tend to have limited regard for integrity. They can become so preoccupied with success and achievement that they have little time to stop and ask if their inner person is keeping pace with the outer process. Usually it is not, and there is an increasing gap, a breakdown in integrity. People like this often become progressively deceitful and they deceive not only others, they deceive themselves. In the attempt to push ahead relentlessly, they lie to themselves about motives. Shortcuts to success become a way of life. Because the goal is so important, they drift into ethical shabbiness. Driven people become frighteningly pragmatic.

(5) Driven people often possess limited or undeveloped people skills.
They are not noted for getting along well with others. Projects are more important to them than people. (If others are not found to be useful, then they may be seen as obstacles or competitors.) There is usually a "trail of bodies" in the wake of the driven person. Where once others praised him for his seemingly great leadership, there soon appears a steady increase in frustration and hostility, as they see that the driven person cares very little about the health and growth of human beings. It becomes apparent that there is a non-negotiable agenda'' Colleagues and subordinates in the orbit of the driven person slowly drop away, one after another, exhausted, exploited, and disillusioned. Of this person we are most likely to find ourselves saying, "He is miserable to work with, but he certainly gets things done."

(6) Driven people tend to be highly competitive.

(7) A driven person often possesses a volcanic force of anger,
which can erupt at any time he senses opposition or disloyalty. This anger can be triggered when people disagree, offer an alternative solution to a problem, or even hint at just a bit of criticism.

(8) Driven people are usually abnormally busy.
They are usually too busy for the pursuit of ordinary relationships in marriage, family, or friendship, or even to carry on a relationship with themselves --not to speak of one with God. They attempt to impress people with the fullness of their schedule...

I realize that not all will feel convicted by MacDonald''s analysis, but still there are implicit warnings for all of us. To begin with, I must ask, Am I driven by self, ego, the flesh. or by God''s Spirit? Next, look around. Many believe they are on a holy crusade, advancing God''s cause, when in fact they are driven by selfish ambition. Some people view everything as a competition: to be the biggest, the greatest, the most impressive. Paul speaks of such people and their incessant rivalry in Philippians 1:15-17:  "It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so in love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely."

And yet, to round out our perspective, as long as Christ is preached, we ought to rejoice''regardless of the motives or ambitions of the preachers, as Paul continued in Philippians 1:18:  "But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice."

Beware driven men. Especially if that man is you! For further study: See my earlier article entitled "Forceful Men."