Editor’s Note: Kristie Kershaw, the wife of British born actor, Nathan Kershaw, (“Bob Wheedle” and “Sam Courage” ), has this to write about “Ambition,” (the title of Courage, New Hampshire chapter four.)
Ambition is neither vice nor virtue – nothing but human intention can make it one or the other.
On its face, ambition is merely the desire to better oneself or one’s circumstances. That, in and of itself, can be construed as neither good nor bad. The motivation, in point of fact, is everything.
If the motive be merely that of one’s own selfish gain, without regard for the feelings and desires of others upon which one may trod along the way, then it is most certainly a vice. Think of Reverend Laud – and his treatment of Abby Lamb, as well as the townspeople of Courage. He wants to satisfy his professional and physical desires – at the expense of the wellbeing of the people of Courage, and at the expense of Abby’s heart. His ambition is a vice containing many other vices – lust, greed, and pride. In his overwhelming selfishness, he pursues his ambition and places his desires above the rights of others.
However, if ambition is applied to the self in an honest, authentic, ethical way – to better one’s own life and the lives of others- then it is most certainly a virtue. The ambition to become one’s best self – to be the most attentive husband, the most loving wife, the most compassionate neighbor, the most selfless servant, the most honest employee, the most fair employer, etc – is a virtuous pursuit indeed. As the character of Bob Wheedle/Sam Courage has transformed from a rogue to an honest man, so too has his ambition transformed from vice to virtue. Once driven only by ambition for success and pleasure in the King’s army, he has now surrendered the esteem associated with that role, to be nothing more than a farmer. This choice may seem to reflect a man who’s abandoned his ambition, yet quite the opposite is true. As Sam Courage, he possesses as much or more ambition than Bob Wheedle, it has merely been refined, and redirected – as has the man himself. His ambitions now revolve around becoming the absolute best man he can be. To toil and work the land, to sacrifice and provide for his wife and child, to be a loving and steadfast husband and father – and to be an honest and loyal citizen of the new homeland he has now embraced as his own.
To that end, when ambition serves to help you to make the very best and most of the gifts God has given, it is undoubtedly one of the greatest virtues of all – for within it, it carries all the other virtues there are.