If you are fortunate enough to have a strong sense of personal calling or talent or giftedness, one of the great temptations will be pride.
It is common for great leaders to think of themselves and what they are doing as a gift to the world. Os Guinness writes,
One of the most common, subtle, and manipulative distortions of all is in religious empire building. God only knows how many churches, missionary societies, charities, colleges, crusades, reforms, and acts of philanthropic generosity have trumpeted the call of God and advanced their leaders’ egos.The Call, 115 (2003)
There are far too many human-made empires and organizations that have risen and fallen on the ego of a single person. It happens when the belief is that God exists to serve the mission rather than the other way around. The result is that a calling, which is meant to be a blessing to you and others, becomes a curse.
How do we avoid the trap?
My short answer is this: don’t take yourself too seriously. There are two parts to my answer.
First, the responsibilities given to you by God are important and should be taken very seriously. This seems counter to my statement, but it is not. The responsibility is important, but your role in the carrying the responsibility can be done by any number of people called and equipped by God. This means that you can be replaced. However, the fact remains that God has indeed called you for a specific set of tasks, and you should not take that lightly. Whatever it is God has asked you to do is important, but that doesn’t give you permission to think of yourself as more important than others.
Second, God has been working long before you arrived, and He will continue to work long after you are gone. It is sobering to think that your life, when compared to the billions of lives that will have been lived throughout the existence of humanity, is a mere speck of dust. We all participate in the word of God, but your part in it is just that: a part. It doesn’t mean you’re not special. But, you and your work are not more special.
How does this change things?
When you have a clear sense that God has given you a particular task to do while you are on this earth, and you combine that with the humility of not taking yourself too seriously, you become unstoppable. Why? Because you behave in a way that values the calling, and not just yours, but all callings, as vitally important while maintaining that yours is not more important.
You will treat people and what they are up to with value, knowing that they may very well be doing just as important work as you are, even though you can’t see the value. The goal here is to live with an appreciation for what others are doing because you assume they, just like you, have heard a call. This is an exercise in true humility.