Tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor – we all chose our occupations in life. But why did you choose the occupation you did? Was it a chance opportunity, or a deliberate choice? Was it in some way connected to a family tradition? Was it because you recognised that your particular skills could be useful in your choice? Or did you sit down, conduct a dispassionate analysis – and follow your rational conclusion?
I have a theory that we often choose our occupation from rather deeper notions, of which we are often unaware. And you may feel, when I have done, that you would rather you had remained unaware.
Take for example becoming a doctor. There are very good reasons for someone of the right intellectual ability and an interest in people to make such a choice. And, of course, the money potential is good. But perhaps a stronger pull may be that you rather like knowing all the answers, and being able to communicate them without much fear of being contradicted.
Or possibly a policeman? It’s an excellent opportunity for contributing to society, through being an agent of good order. But might you also be someone with a sense of righteousness which you would like to be able to impose on others? There might even a be a little temptation to frighten people through your authority. I don’t mean that all policeman, or any of the other examples, are like this – merely that you will find a higher proportion of these hidden characteristics in policeman than you would find in other similar people who are not policemen. (Change policeman to Inland Revenue inspector, if you wish.)
We have all known wonderful teachers who may have changed our lives through their dedicated vocation. But are there teachers who have motives hidden even from themselves? The big world is scary, but if you move from the safe environment of a pupil to the safe environment of a teacher everything is likely to be comfortable. Among other advantages, the teaching profession is known for its tolerance for incompetents, it’s really quite hard to be sacked – so you’ll be very secure. And how tempting it would be to switch from being at the receiving end of the teaching process to being in charge!
How about the priesthood? That can hardly go wrong because you have the call from the Holy Spirit. Ho hum – the notion that our guidance from the Holy Spirit is reliable is very suspect. It is all too easy for us to mistake what we really want to do or really want to believe for the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. (Is it possible that we occasionally see this on the Blog?) “Test the spirits to see whether they are from God” was what St John recommended. What are the very human characteristics which might lead someone towards ordination? Figure of authority? Holy man? Happiness of one’s family? Subject to passions which cannot otherwise be controlled? Fear of the opposite sex? Secure career?
May be time for confession. I spent my career working in a large financial company with a high reputation. I started at the bottom, and worked my way near enough to the top over exactly 40 years. Why? Not for the love of finance, I assure you. Or of our clients. No, I am a person who likes to see a secure future. I do not like surprises. And an immensely strong company, who promoted from within, and only sacked people for financial irregularity, was just the thing. And I benefit from its pension scheme to this day. Nothing very noble in that.
How about you?