succeedI will always fondly remember my last day of school in 7th grade. We were all busy signing each other’s yearbooks and wishing each other a happy summer break.

My history teacher wrote something in my yearbook that day I’ll never forget. She penned the simple yet elegant advice to “aim high.” Throughout my adult life I’ve never lost that book, nor forgotten that message.

It was a notion that completely contradicted everything I’d ever been taught about myself. I didn’t fully understand it at the time, but she was trying to help me. She knew the organization I was heavily involved with and how they viewed personal success. She took the opportunity to show me that there was a different way of thinking, and that she had faith in me as an individual.

I grew up being taught that a desire for personal success was something to be looked down on. The group needs were always said to be of utmost importance. Individualism, on the other hand, was seen to be selfish and arrogant. It was strongly suggested to me, over the years, that the desire to succeed in life was a bad thing.

Ambition compared with psychopathy has a section designed for teenagers. Among a host of activities in this section is a worksheet on the topic of Absalom, who is a character found in the Old Testament. He was a power-hungry, psychopathic narcissist who stopped at nothing to gain access to his father’s throne, even murdering his own family members.

A article tries to equate one bible's character's antisocial behavior with "the trap of ambition"
A worksheet tries to equate one bible character’s antisocial behavior with “the trap of ambition”

Instead of focusing on the clear psychopathy of this infamous Bible figure, the worksheet (entitled “Guard against ambition”) blames his actions on ambition. After telling teenagers to read the Bible story and “visualize the scenes,” “hear the voices,” and “feel the emotions of the characters,” they’re instructed to write down what they learned about the danger of an “ambitious spirit.”

Furthermore, the worksheet asks questions such as: “How might you fall into the trap of ambition?” and, “How can you avoid developing undue pride?” These loaded questions presuppose that Absalom’s actions were simply the product of his ambition and pride when clearly they fit in line with the modern understanding of psychopathy. The worksheet targets the general concept of ambition and stigmatizes it as dangerous.

This concept perfectly fits with my experience as a child. Personal success was, and still is, being targeted by the official site of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Clearly, Watchtower is threatened by the ambitious youth among their ranks, and are taking action to demotivate them. The worksheet accomplishes this by connecting the general term of ambition to the ghastly deeds of a psychopathic murderer.

Ambition – a character defect?

Anthony Morris III recently did a piece on JW Broadcasting where he went on a long tirade against the “dangers” of higher learning. To make his point he showed an interview with Philip Brumley, who was sent to obtain a law degree by Watchtower headquarters. He had this to say about his experience:

“Something happened that I was not prepared for. When a person goes to law school the instructors, law professors, essentially tell the class: you’re the hope of humanity. You happened to be born in the best country on this planet. You happen to be among the few in this country who have the circumstances to be able to attend law school. You are the future presidents, governors, senators, judges.

But not only that you are also the future social activists, the one’s who are going to protect the disenfranchised, the poor, the one’s who need their rights protected. If you do well, civilization will do well. If you do poorly, humanity may not survive. Now that may sound like a grandiose statement, but when you hear that repeated over a 4 year period, it can start creeping into your mind.

Another thing that happened related to that was there is a fierce spirit of competition in law school. And I brought with me the notion of ‘this is a bethel assignment’, so I want to do well, not just well, but very well. And David, in the first year I scored rather poorly, and that shocked me. I thought I have to do better than this.

A deep spirit of competition came into my being where I would devote whatever time was required to do well, and, in one sense it worked because when I graduated, I graduated cumlaude which means top 10% of the class, but both the spirit of competition and the thought that somehow you were special because you had this training had marked my personality.”

Watchtower lawyer Philip Brumley
Watchtower lawyer Philip Brumley

Contrary to what Brumley said, what he was told at law school doesn’t sound grandiose at all. The fate of civilization IS intimately connected with those who choose to practice law. Lawyers DO assume a special role in the protection of our society that is based on our unalienable rights, which require protection.

Even Watchtower relies on lawyers for survival in the modern world. This was precisely why Brumley was sent to law school in the first place. His education was being paid for because such skills are required in order to protect the rights of the organization and Jehovah’s Witnesses in general.

He admits that being in an environment of fierce competition directly contributed to his success (which headquarters reaps dividends from to this day), but he cannot help but also issue a strong warning:

“It wasn’t until I got out of law school that my wife Elizabeth sat me down one day and in so many words told me, ‘you’re not the man I married.’ And I was taken aback, ‘what do you mean?’ she pointed out the character flaws that had developed in me: ambition, egotism, selfishness, combativeness, being argumentative and the more I listened to her the more I realized she was absolutely right. I had allowed these defects to creep into my personality.”

Just as in the worksheet, he demonizes the general concept of ambition by coupling it with a list of character flaws. He calls ambition a “defect” that crept into his personality from his time at university which required purging.

Among the 8 million Jehovah’s Witnesses are many young people who are at a point in their life where they’re seriously contemplating their futures. Tools such as JW Broadcasting and give the Watchtower more ability to exploit such impressionable people. Convincing them that making something of yourself, or trying to better the world around you, is selfish and egotistical makes it easier to siphon them into something that will benefit the organization.

As I look back I greatly appreciate the message my 7th grade teacher gave me on my last day in her class. The world most certainly is a better place when individuals do what it takes to accomplish great things. Without the ambitions of those who came before us, we’d all still be in the dark ages. Only by believing that we can be something more do we expand our horizons and discover new ways of thinking and being.

It’s sad to see that the leaders of the Watchtower are blind to this basic truth. They are too busy growing their empire and protecting its interests to take a look at what the world has actually accomplished. Their doctrine can never describe a world that is moving forward. They can only teach that everything is doomed and only they are worth investing in.

It is my hope that many of the younger people in the religion will not buy into this perverted message. Despite what the Watchtower would have us believe, helping yourself and making the world a better place is not akin to rearranging chairs on the Titanic. History proves that even single individuals can profoundly impact the world for the better. They just have to believe in themselves – and the Watchtower is trying to nip that in the bud within their ranks.

Imagine if people such as Isaac Newton or Albert Einstein had taken on a mindset like the Watchtower advises. What if they had given up their talents in favor of spreading a doomsday message throughout the globe? What would be different for us if they never achieved success? The prospect is frightening.

Instead of being swayed by the fatalistic views of a doomsday cult, why not continue in the direction in which humanity has always been moving?








113 thoughts on “How Watchtower stigmatizes the desire to succeed in life

  • March 8, 2015 at 4:58 am

    A very well written article. Thank you very much, I so enjoyed it. That religion wants us all to think alike, act alike, and be good little slaves. It seems to me like its communistic indoctrination and preparing us for the New Barbaric World Order.

  • March 8, 2015 at 5:34 am

    It’s very disturbing that the JW’s canvas outside the gates of the university where I research. It’s one thing to impose this nasty ideology on JW children, it’s something much more predatory to seek out disenfranchised young university students so that you can purposely destroy their lives. I’ve previously contacted the university’s student body and they, in turn, have contacted our (Irish) community Gardai to try to move them on but I’m not sure if they’ll be successful.
    I am also aware of someone in the JW organisation who, after inheriting money, planned to buy student accommodation so that he could target university students with this anti-education bilge.

  • March 8, 2015 at 5:51 am

    James, such a good article and so very true. A kid could finish top of their class in school but you will never see a parent who is proud of that kid for all the hard work they did to get there. While other kid’s parent’s cars have stickers on them telling how proud they are of their kid, you will never see something like that on a car of a Witness parent. That kid will have people at school who encourage him to do something with their life, other than being a window washer or a janitor but the kid will be intimidated by their parents, the congregation and the Watchtower into giving up all his dreams of a decent life and when he’s 60 years old and Armageddon hasn’t come yet, will have nothing saved up for retirement and will have to work till the day he dies, crippled and toothless because he won’t even be able to afford to go to a dentist.

    The Society needs for all the followers to be too stupid to question them. That is the only way it ( JW religion) can go on and they know it and nothing is beneath them when it comes to achieving their goals.

    • March 8, 2015 at 6:03 am

      Thanks, anonymous, You just described my life in the WT! I am 60 and was in for 41 years so I can speak from experience that what you said is dead on!

  • March 8, 2015 at 5:59 am

    Great article, James. Just wanted to comment on a couple of things. First of all, WT is not going to pay your bills when you take their advice (like I did when I was young), avoid college, and end up in a financial mess because you didn’t have a good career. When I finally did take a few college classes I did want to do well, but it never even crossed my mind to compete with the other students. I wanted to do well to learn and to feel good about myself. Period. They didn’t teach me anything against the Bible, there were no ‘bad associations’. It didn’t make me competitive, all the things they warn of. I started to believe in myself and it did lead to me finally trusting my own inner voice and leaving WT. I believe THAT is why they work so hard to dumb everyone down and keep them enslaved in their chains! I so hope that the young people today will see through the WT rhetoric and just grab life! After all, Solomon said in Ecc. that to see good for all your hard work is not selfish, but is ‘the gift of God’.

  • March 8, 2015 at 6:01 am

    This article in particular resonates with me. I grew up as a very creative, ambitious individual by nature. I was taking art classes with college students by the time I was in elementary school in hopes of becoming a Disney animator. An elder in my congregation publicly chastised me for this, stating that I wouldn’t be able to do something so secular in Satan’s world. As a post-secondary student in high school, I enrolled in a college vocal class. The feedback I received from fellow classmates was so encouraging that I soon began private lessons. My instructor recommended me for a scholarship to Julliard. When I told my parents about the news, my dad slammed his fists on the table of a public restaurant, objecting to the idea of a higher education that would take me away from the supervision of the local congregation. So many years were wasted, talents left questioned and unfulfilled… my parents were thankfully supportive of my creative proclivities, and did what they could to support them within congregation “reason,” but it wasn’t until I was disfellowshipped did I move overseas to earn a diploma in music performance. And eventually to Savannah, Georgia to complete my bachelor’s degree in film production. My education has been an enormous victory for me, as it was never considered an option. I remember sitting in the guidance counselor’s office in high school, telling her that I did not plan to attend college, but rather pioneer the year after graduation. That is exactly what I did. I can’t recall anything more soul crushing.

  • March 8, 2015 at 7:28 am

    Yes. Happened to me too. Now 59 and working 6 days a week, 20 years behind my age set. Very dodgy pension and working for my own little “family” run business.

    I was in A grade at grammar school and due to take my “A” levels, a year ahead of schedule. I was lined up for the Viennese Orchestra with my love of the Clarinet. Pau and then the Sorbonne in Paris to enhance my language skills.

    Currently, I work in a profession Allied to Medicine, but would love to have been working as a Specialist Doctor for Medecins sans frontiers.

    In stead I had 10 years in full time service, leading to total disillusionment for all the many reasons explored in this forum.

    Oddly, I noted that some who were in favour…did follow their “gifts” and were used as Lawyers, Medics. and Engineers by an eager “Organisation”, ready to employ their skills. How did they get those skills in the first place?! (rhetorical)

    This tended to create an Elitist attitude within the congregations and an aire of depression and lack of fulfilment amongst those who had to supress their God-given talents.

    Not all were capable of making their fortune as Janitors and Window cleaners, or, as we say in the UK…”were born with a Silver Spoon in their mouths”.

    Thanks for this article, James

  • March 8, 2015 at 8:29 am

    Very well written article. Mr. Strait not only tells it like it is but also has a talent and flair for writing. I have a brilliant young nephew who is in the very situation he describes.
    Fortunately he (my nephew) is not buying into it but he has a hard road ahead of him as he is under a great deal of pressure from his jw parents. Really hits home.

  • March 8, 2015 at 8:46 am

    The elders kids always go to college!

    But the congregation kids are told not to go.

    It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what is going on.

    • March 8, 2015 at 11:35 am

      Absolutely true Mama Joy!!! Been saying that and seeing this fact for years!

  • March 8, 2015 at 9:17 am

    The United States is experiencing culture wars. As a born-in Witness, I hated the ignorance in the JW community. The hatred of learning and sophsitication is present in fundamentalism around the world. I stumbled onto mainstream Christianity b/c the subway was not working at my customary stop. I walked by a leading cathedral in New York. Curiousity sent me inside. I discovered that Christianity need not be a religion of ignorance. The church kept western civilization alive. Early Church fathers embraced education. They not only knew their Bible scriptures well. There was no conflict with classical Greek and Roman thought.

    Theologians were allowed to question the church. People believed that only educated people could understand the scriptures and contribute to society. The church played a unifying force in European society. Popes intervened in disputes. Puritans believed that every member should understand the Bible. Almost all elite universities in America started as religious colleges. People tended to embrace faith. Their faith was not ignorant or blind faith.

    Slaves were not allowed to learn to read or write for fear of organizing uprisings and rebellion. Most slave uprisings in the South were led by house slaves who tended to be more educated. They would hear conversations of owners. Ignorant people fear education.
    I am at a loss where the belief among fundamentalists that educated people are evil started.

    The WT would fold if members were free to question its doctrines and practices. When the slaves were freed by the Emancipation Proclamation and the Thirteenth Amendment, the first task of Union forces was to create literacy. One can only ask why the WT discourages education. Truth should still be truth regardless of education.

    Mainstream Christian leaders are highly educated. You cannot preach what you do not know.

  • March 8, 2015 at 9:34 am

    I too am 59, left school at 15 in 1971. No point going to college, Armageddon was coming in 1975, 4 years away! I remember when my friends wanted to go on holiday abroad in 1975 I wouldn’t go because I wanted to be near my family when (not if) Armageddon came! I stayed in for a long time after that because all my family were witnesses and my friends but little by little started to question things. I married and had children (also against GB advice) so glad I ignored that advice to stay single and Pioneer otherwise I would have been very lonely now. I also stopped paying into pensions because I would never get that old in this system. Well I’m getting there now. I could go on and on. I faded years ago but most of my family and my husband still believe it but none of my children do and they are all at or are going to University. I feel very angry and resentful that I was so misled and also against my family and husband that they can’t see how wrong they are. I have had many arguments with them and get called an apostate so I have to bite my tongue and not say anything. My mother is 85 and will never change now and I upset her when I try to reason with her. There is no reasoning with them.

  • March 8, 2015 at 10:17 am

    It has come to the point where, in my local congregation, people completely brow beaten and lacking in ambition were lauded. Case in point: my friend with four kids, unemployed, on social assistance (welfare), and an exemplary ministerial servant! I don’t know how many “pillars of the congregation” were on assistance, all the while decrying the evils of the “wicked system” that supported them and made their lifestyle possible!

  • March 8, 2015 at 10:49 am

    Most interesting a letter went out to the elders for lawyers and paralegals. But concluded with “Please note we are not encouraging individuals to pursue higher education or university degrees to obtain skills related to legal matters” (W13 10/15 pp 15-16 pars 13-14). But here is another irony, if you go to Bethel with out a degree you will do blue collar work your whole time there( nothing wrong with this). But if you have a professional degree you will work in a white collar profession. So even in Bethel you need a degree to get ahead. I’m just saying.

  • March 8, 2015 at 11:23 am

    “It wasn’t until I got out of law school that my wife Elizabeth sat me down one day and in so many words told me, ‘you’re not the man I married.’ And I was taken aback, ‘what do you mean?’ she pointed out the character flaws that had developed in me: ambition, egotism, selfishness, combativeness, being argumentative and the more I listened to her the more I realized she was absolutely right. I had allowed these defects to creep into my personality.”

    I will respectfully submit that if Brumley was a Bethel “Elder,” then the traits were already there cloaked in an outward false humility. It is quite common to see that in ambitious elders and elder wannabes. It’s not that the Organization discourages ambition, it discourages ambition it can’t use and encourages it towards goals it approves and can use by rewarding those who reach for those goals with position and power. Along the way bad habits are cultivated and cloaked as mentioned above.

    No wonder it attracts psychopaths who abuse other Witnesses in so many ways!

    • March 8, 2015 at 12:33 pm

      The governing body are frightened of Educated ,Analytical people that can do research because they can see the Falsehoods & Lies & Contradictions!!

      • March 8, 2015 at 12:38 pm

        I look around my kingdom hall & many are simple lovely people who are not educated. The FEW who are well educated are TOO FRIGHTENED to Say Anything against the GB because of Losing Family & Friends. SCARY but Very Very SAD!! This is how CULTS work through a FEAR of SHUNNING!!!

  • March 8, 2015 at 1:43 pm


    Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for God has already approved what you do. Always be clothed in white, and always anoint your head with oil. Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life that God has given you under the sun—all your meaningless days. For this is your lot in life and in your toilsome labor under the sun.

    *Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might*, for in the realm of the dead, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.

  • March 8, 2015 at 2:28 pm

    I can only say, Peter Gabriel (second one down on YouTube) Wallflower.x

  • March 8, 2015 at 2:38 pm

    You are not forgotten here.

  • March 8, 2015 at 3:06 pm

    “All that is valuable in human society depends upon the opportunity for development accorded to the individual”. Albert Einstein.

  • March 8, 2015 at 3:56 pm

    It’s a shame they did not accurately portray Absolom in that picture. He was one gorgeous hunk!!! 2 Samuel 14:25-26. “25 But in all Israel there was none to be so much praised as Absalom for his beauty: from the sole of his foot even to the crown of his head there was no blemish in him. 26 And when he polled his head, (for it was at every year’s end that he polled it: because the hair was heavy on him, therefore he polled it:) he weighed the hair of his head at two hundred shekels after the king’s weight.” I kinda like men with groomed long hair myself. His must have been curly, since he got his hair caught in a tree and hung there trapped…until he was killed.

    Me thinks the artist was not educated enough to know how the Bible described him!

    Also I believe Absolom was disappointed and disgusted with his father David for not taking revenge against Amnon for raping his half-sister Tamar, who was his whole sister. He took Tamar into his own house since her life was ruined and put her under his protection. I would call that a loving and caring brother. But what do I know?

    But I guess we can read anything we want to in the Bible.

    I have wondered what I could have done had I been able to go to college. In our class prophesy, I said I would be secretary to the President of the USA! Instead I set my aim on pioneering. It only took two years for me to burn out.

    Still, I am happy with the person I am now and wouldn’t change a thing even if I could. There is no one in my life that I would sacrafice to get a re-do.

    Very good article James!

  • March 8, 2015 at 4:22 pm

    When I was a youngling, considering enrolling in University, one Witless b***h warned me, “Be careful. University ruins a lot of people’s lives.” Seriously?? What misguided buffoons (baboons?)!!!
    P.S.: Where do they think the lawyers (including jw lawyers) who are now defending WT, learned THEIR trade?

  • March 8, 2015 at 7:54 pm

    Higher education helps develop critical thinking, something crucial in defending the bible, especially from those who would exploit it.

    People who are educated know the picture of such ambition as defined by the Watchtower: Men who abandon the Truth, stretch the truth, exploit the scriptures, rally the ignorant, create sects (or one big sect), combine prophecy with paganism (earlier founders) dabble in politics only to succeed in getting your followers into prison camps, cover over wrongdoing to save face, and the list goes on.

    I think ambition and higher education must be defined more fully before its attacked.

    The begining of wisdom is the fear of God. If they feared God, they would not do such things.

    I hope God makes an example of them soon.

  • March 8, 2015 at 10:48 pm

    The Watch Tower wants uneducated sheep, they are easy to control. In the past the reason for not going to university was so that you did not lose the faith. Their business model is a nickel and dime one which can work well even for low income followers. Wounder how that will work when they will need a lot more money to pay off child abuse cases.

  • March 9, 2015 at 12:57 am

    Stigmatizing the desire to succeed in life is one of the tools they use to control sex by penetrating couples’ intimacy.

    *** w78 2/15 pp. 30-32 Questions From Readers ***
    ● Does the Bible set forth any specific definitions as to what is moral or immoral as regards the sexual relationship between husband and wife? Is it the responsibility of congregational elders to endeavor to exercise control among congregation members in these intimate marital matters?

    *** w78 15/5 p. 30 Questions des lecteurs ***
    Questions des lecteurs
    ● La Bible définit-elle avec précision ce qui est moral ou immoral dans le domaine des relations sexuelles entre mari et femme? Les anciens ont-ils la responsabilité de dicter aux membres de la congrégation quelle doit être leur conduite dans l’intimité conjugale?

  • March 9, 2015 at 2:14 am

    @ Pickled brain


    Yes, once you tie your self-esteem to other people’s opinions of you, you become their slave. JW.ORG knows this and uses it to their advantage.
    I wonder if some of the proceeds from all the JW.ORG merchandising will go toward paying off all those lawsuits. Maybe that’s the motivation behind all the tie-clips, buttons, T-shirts, etc, etc, etc. Quite sinister.

  • March 9, 2015 at 2:33 am

    If/when Brumley leaves the Watchtower, at least he will do so with some education that will help him make a living. Most Witnesses (especially those working at Bethel) have nothing to fall back on and struggle.

  • March 9, 2015 at 2:34 am

    One of my siblings in the early 1970s did so well in high school they received a scholarship to university. They were strongly discouraged to go and instead encouraged to pioneer as the end was so close. They are retiring soon, after working menial jobs they were never happy in, with nothing to their name and relying on a small government pension.
    I also remember a circuit overseer about 20 years ago singling out a brother who had nearly qualified as an accountant studying part time at night, at a small circuit assembly. He had the whole audience laughing along with him as he was saying, all that study time wasted as Armageddon will be here before he even gets to qualify, and we won’t need accountants in the new system. I wonder how well the CO is doing in his retirement!

  • March 9, 2015 at 3:14 am

    Imagine this scenario, ( not that it is possible) imagine even just 100 years ago, that the preaching work had been soooo sucessfull that most of the world had converted. (Lol) There would be no ambitious people, and we would be dying of all sorts of illnesses and deseises. We would have poor sanitation etc etc etc, because it is the ambtion to suceed in whatever they do, that drives our wonderful scientists and doctors and anyone else who contributes. This would all be going on and we would still be waiting for Armageddon to put it right. I also find it funny that only recently WT was looking for ambitious ones to join their legal team. Ambition does not always carry a negative meaning.

  • March 9, 2015 at 3:34 am

    @Iamacountrygirl. I listened to that account from the link that James put up several times and I couldn’t think of anything else about that reading that if I was a kid and my parents were studying that account with me, is that I’d want to know just how much does 200 shekels weigh? According to the footnote at that account at 2 Sam. 14:26, it’s about 5 pounds!!! Can anybody really take that seriously???? Do they even get 5 pounds of wool off a sheep at the end of the year? Really????

    And another thing if you read that whole account, the reason Absalom got “ambitious” is that for 40 years, Absalom would sit outside the gate and when people would come into the King (his father David), David took so long in the judging matters, that Absalom did it for his father David and Absalom would judge the people the way they liked it. They didn’t have to wait like they did with David’s being the judge and the people liked him more than his father for that reason. So it was that they liked Absalom because when they came to David, David was too lazy to judge the case.

    And then another thing is that when Absalom’s team was coming up against David’s team in the conspiracy war, David gave all his men orders that they weren’t to hurt his son Absalom but when a man had seen Absalom in the tree, he remembered what David had said about not hurting Absalom and wouldn’t kill Absalom but Joab went back and killed Absalom anyway against David’s orders and if you read the account, it doesn’t say anywhere that what happened to Joab after that, if anybody told David it was Joab that killed Absalom or not. For all we know, David killed Joab for killing his son Absalom.

    To take an account like that and pass it off as something bad about ambition is really reaching……

  • March 9, 2015 at 3:38 am

    …and another thing to add to my last comment. Where was David’s son Solomon during all this with his 1,000 wives???

    • March 9, 2015 at 11:14 am

      I think I know. :)

    • March 9, 2015 at 11:14 am

      I think I know. :)

      • March 9, 2015 at 11:16 am

        I don’t know why that came out twice.

  • March 9, 2015 at 7:00 am

    I was DF’ed over 25 years ago. In that time the only time my family ever contacted me was when they needed money cause over time I did better than they did. The “Organization” with their policies and dogma and “suggestions” made them unable to educate and improve their lives financially. They did not plan for retirement. They did not set aside resources for the years that were to come (and still are). They barely get by with the support from the “friends”. I would argue that this situation is not unique and a lot of JWs have become dependent on each other for their daily physical needs and resources for emergencies.

    When I hear a JW say “Where would we go?” I am convinced that it is not merely about leaving the “Organization” for spiritual reasons. I believe that there is principally a material reason to stay in. The “Organization’s” policies aren’t merely to keep people docile and manageable. I believe that they have crippled their Rank-and-File financially so that there is truly nowhere else to go.

  • March 9, 2015 at 7:09 am

    According to my synonym finder there are 5 meanings to the word ambition:
    1)aspiration, hoping, wishfulness, desire, covetousness; yearning, longing, want, need, craving; appetite, taste, hunger.
    2)goal, aim, target, destination, end point, intent, purpose, design, plan, scheme; hope, dream, wish, ideal
    3) enterprise, drive, force, striving, push; energy, vigor, vim, verve; zeal, enthusiasm, eagerness, spirit, get up and go, gimp
    4) aspire to, hope for, wish for, dream of; desire, covet, yearn for, long for, want, need, crave; hunger for, have an appetite or taste for
    5)aim for, shot for, have an ideal or goal, scheme or plan toward, intend, purpose; seek, search for, look for, follow

    I didn’t grow up a Witness. I had grown up with the idea that an ambitious person was a hard worker and that was all. They had vim and vigor. That is the only meaning that I had learned when I was growing up for the word ambitious.

    When I married my born-in JW husband, I could never get across to him that to be an ambitious person wasn’t necessarily a greedy person who was a schemer out to defraud people but a hard worker who has energy to get a job done. That is the only way a Witnesses is to view the word ambition is in a negative light.

    Does the Society even have a word for a hard worker who has a hunger and desire and energy to get a job done or a to fulfill a goal or a plan to in life and the energy to do it??? If there is one, I don’t know what it is.

    To Witnesses, the word ambitious and ambition are dirty words. To me the word ambition, says goal and the ambitious person is a person who works hard to reach his goals. I never thought of ambitious as bad until I became a Witness.

    • March 9, 2015 at 11:22 am

      Witlesses are lazy. That’s why they’re so witless. Too lazy even to think for themselves!

  • March 9, 2015 at 7:10 am

    I joined the WTBTS in 1969 aged 19 and left of my own free will in 1980. Since then I have gone on to receive my BA [Hons] in Theology and Religious Studies with Hebrew, my Post Graduate Certificate in Education [PGCE] My Masters in Second Temple Judaism, my Master of Philosophy in Patristics and finally my PhD in Pastritics [Gnosticism] I taught Religious Education in School and finally Biblical Studies at University in the UK.

  • March 9, 2015 at 8:35 am

    Equating the desire for an education to that of an ambitious
    murderer is stretching reason to breaking point.
    In fact the word reason is totally out of place here, it’s just
    plain ignorance.

    It’s just as irrational as claiming a lack of ambition and education
    would make you into a placid protective person, with high regard
    for human life.

    Facts in this case defeat fantasy.– Latin America has a very high
    murder rate. Among the reasons given for this are,
    income inequality, unemployment and “Poor Education”.

  • March 9, 2015 at 9:01 am

    there are a lot of ambitious JW in the org, brothers wanting to be an elder for the title, sisters wanting to be pioneers, shouldn’t judge their motives but I have seen way to many basking in the glory of their ambition in the org, but I suppose that is different to the GB, ambition is ambition and only put in a negative light if its not for the org.

    I know many elders that have their own business, some are teachers, I know of a doctor that is an elder, also know of some elders kids that went to uni, some were asked to step down others not, guess its who you know in the org and there is a lot of nepotism in the org also.

    They always speak out of both sides of their mouth, but what is criminal to me is to stunt the potential of these kids, who wants to be a cleaner all their youth, very few in fact hardly any elder I know is a window cleaner.

  • March 9, 2015 at 9:22 am

    @kat, good point.

    Their definition and vilification of ambition as opposed to what they do encourage (i.e. “reaching out” for positions) is a distinction without a difference. How many times were we encouraged to “reach out” for privileges, leadership, and “taking the lead”. There is no room for the meek in the KH, for the introvert, for those who want to simply serve without a title. In fact, if you are a male in JWs, unless you are “reaching out” constantly you are treated as spiritually weak. So, there is the constant pressure to either keep moving up or move out. If that is not a culture of ambition, I don’t know what is.

    • March 9, 2015 at 3:05 pm

      Strong Haiku, you described me to a tee. I was never interested in reaching out. I observed those that did & it was rock star status. I even had a pioneer elder say that the pioneers that were invited to the US for the last international convention were treated like rock stars.

      I hated being put on the spot. I hated answering up. I just wanted to quietly worship, I liked having one on one conversations & talking about the bible in a more intimate setting but that’s because I’m extremely shy & maybe I lacked confidence, I don’t know, but not everyone is extraverted & are happy being the way that they are.

      You are right, you have to have some ambition to thrive in this organisation or your self esteem gets hammered by the judgements of those that think that you should be like them. That you lack maturity or you are weak in the faith.

  • March 9, 2015 at 9:48 am

    @James Brilliantly written!

  • March 9, 2015 at 10:49 am

    When I was a witness I saw so many individuals who were talented and smart and ambitious, but because of the constant message from the watchtower to not work for this system and not waste time on getting a good education, they became unambitious and ended up in low paying jobs.

    Funny thing though, when a person is told not to be ambitious or to not develop their talents, they may lose their self worth. So in effect anything they may try to do, including pioneering, will be compromised due to the lack of motivation.

    The message from the watchtower to “dumb down” has backfired on them, as they are controlling a flock of individuals many of whom are unhappy and who are just going through the motions, waiting for a promised new system that may or may not come within their lifetimes and many of whom stay in the “organization” to keep their friends and family.

  • March 9, 2015 at 10:49 am

    I can’t find the words to tell you how much this article means to me. I’ve been thinking about this subject recently and thinking about how the organization has made me waste my life.

  • March 9, 2015 at 11:44 am

    Back in 1970’s Cambodia, after Pol Pot and his “Khmer Rouge” guerrillas took power, they basically marched 2 million people into the countryside and slaughtered them. Those killed were mostly doctors, lawyers, teachers, philosophers, intellectuals, educated people. The new regime didn’t want people who could think, to ruin their new “Utopia”.
    JW.ORG tries to make their “New System” look appealing in the images in their literature. In reality, it would look more like Zombieland than Paradise.
    ‘Where are they hiding those Twinkies?!’ :)

    • March 9, 2015 at 3:12 pm

      Neal, it’s funny you mentioned that because my non-witness niece came back from Cambodia & was showing me her photos of the trip & the history of the place on our tv.

      Just as we were going through that particular part of the history of Pol Pot, a brother dropped in to visit to ‘help’ my hubby & I to come back to Jehovah, he sat down & listened to my niece explaining the history so I seized the opportunity to mention how it’s funny how all of these totalitarian regimes hate education because you can’t control people when they’re equipped with thinking abilities.

  • March 9, 2015 at 11:58 am

    @Neal, to me, it’s like they want all Jehovah’s Witnesses to be like dumb little, puppy dogs, wagging their tails and licking their faces.

  • March 9, 2015 at 4:46 pm

    Okay, I have read all of the responses and clearly there is
    One resonating response. We were all stunted by WT
    Standards, and it hurts in hindsight. I personally, became
    An alcoholic. Shame you say, well, why not. everything
    Was no no no no no.From my talent in decor to my talent
    In floral design… No no no.Do I sound angry? I remember my C 0 telling me after doing a gorgeous
    dr Zhivago winter theme that I could never be a florist,
    My talent… But he was ok to insure all the Kingdom Halls
    Ok. butch you know who you are. Personally you make
    Me sick. You make me sick. I am not jealous of you, but
    You brought your sick brother in law to my house who
    Groped me with his eyes and more, then you came with
    A brother who became a gay and lives with a man in South Ca, and you judge me? My side of the story
    Remains in Jahs hands. exposure belongs to the victims.
    CREEPs. I was also attempted molestation by an oo
    I put the kabash on the creep. I have anger.

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