Reach Out, Not Up

ambition blog ego god's invitation Jul 20, 2022

Blog by Gem Fadling

What if it's okay to be small? “A bear of very little brain,” as Pooh says.


This is a question I ask myself when the volume of my ambition gets turned up too loud. There is nothing necessarily wrong with ambition. It's good to have dreams and to work hard.


The problem emerges when the ego bursts forth, my true self gets buried, and I reach for the unattainable in ways that stress my heart, mind, and body.


Do you experience this too--the siren call of your own version of fifteen minutes of fame? Social media can easily amplify this unhealthy desire as we strain for an uncontrollable and unmanageable goal of being seen and followed by the masses.


Maybe it’s okay to be small. To simply love and serve the people in our actual life. There’s no need for tackling things too big for us. Yes, we are called to work with excellence, but not at the whip-cracking mercy of efficiency and productivity. What does true fruitfulness look like for each of us?


Now, don't mistake this as an invitation to get small for the sake of smallness. If God has given you a vision and a dream and you are on the journey of fulfilling it, remain there. I have my own vision and calling as well.


What I'm talking about is the internal dynamic of revving, straining, and striving that I might attach to this God-given vision. This is what becomes unhealthy for me.


How do we remain committed to good and fruitful work without the added weight of unhealthy ambition?


Here’s one way I like to think of it: “Reach out, not up.”


This was God’s invitation to me a few years ago when I caught myself in a reach up mentality. I kept thinking, “If only they would see me or promote me or notice me, then I would be set.” This mode is unsustainable and unachievable because I cannot control them and what they will or won’t do.


A reach out mentality is one that acknowledges the people in my actual life and how I might be of service to them. This is based in reality. Rather than trying to manage a nameless they, I can love and help the people who are actually leaning in.


As soon as I made this shift, I felt a sense of relief. A weight dropped off my shoulders and my stomach relaxed. I know it’s a simple concept, but until I made my own inner pivot, unchecked ambition kept me on a stress treadmill.


I now enjoy a full and fruitful ministry life as I reach out to those in my sphere. I no longer try to reach up in ways that come from ego. This is a much more relaxing way to live and work.


Remain attached to the vine like a faithful branch (John 15), and like that branch, reach out and allow Jesus to produce the fruit.



  • What does your unchecked ambition feel like?
  • How do you resonate with the idea of reaching out rather than up?
  • Who are the people in your sphere and how can you serve them from a stress-free heart?


Photo by Erik Odiin on Unsplash