From what I can gather, the theme of The Social Network is that Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook because he was poor at making friends. The New York Times also recently suggested that Twitter founder Evan Williams started Twitter because he was quiet and slow to make decisions.

Rosabeth Moss Kanter of the Harvard Business Review therefore asks: Do we choose our vocation as compensation for personal weakness and inner misery? Are we driven by something we are bad at, at something we must overcome? Does our inner drive emanate from a personal shortcoming or a void in our lives?

Yale sociologist James Baron has presented evidence to show that some kinds of deprivation can increase motivation. That’s why some immigrants can often be harder workers than those who may have grown up in a prosperous country and have a sense of entitlement. Kanter concludes:

Restless dissatisfaction — that feeling that something isn’t quite right — propels entrepreneurship and innovation. Sometimes the motivation is straightforward and doesn’t require pop Freudian analysis. Get annoyed about a something that isn’t working, and invent a gizmo to fix it. See your mother suffer from cancer, and become a scientist seeking a cure. Get angry about the sorry state of urban education, and start an organization to tackle it. Personal stories lie behind many successful social or business ventures.

Does this also apply to the ministry? I think it can, sometimes positively and sometimes negatively. We see the positive side in the  Apostle Paul. He was driven by His sense of sin and his need, experience, and appreciation of grace. The most passionate preachers of the Gospel are often those who have experienced the transforming power of the Gospel in their lives most deeply.

Negatively, sometimes people can be drawn into ministry (and from what I’ve seen, into counseling in particular) because their own lives and characters are in such a mess. But this is dangerous motivation if it only results in trying to change others without seeking divine change in their own lives first. Changes in others’ lives should never replace and can never compensate for a lack of change in our own.