“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
— Philippians 2:4
Several years ago, the executive of a steel company in Pittsburgh resigned his position and applied for work in a steel mill in another city. This one-time executive became a day laborer for the first time in his life. Some of his friends who knew what he had done thought his actions were very strange. Some saw his decision as a stunt. Others thought he was out of his mind.
But his decision to move from management to laborer was very deliberate. Working six months side-by-side with other laborers, the one-time executive gained a viewpoint of the workers’ problems from a new and entirely different perspective. This man, who spent summers in Westport, became a recognized authority in management-labor relations as he was fulfilling Paul’s statement that we should learn to see matters from other people’s points of view.
This lesson applies not only to business and industry, but to community and family relationships as well.
If a family or a community becomes dysfunctional, we can find the cause generally in a breakdown of relationships. If there is any one reason for a person to feel isolated, divorced or separated, we can find the cause as a feeling of being unimportant. One of the stronger human needs that every person requires for a happy relationship in the work force, a happy marriage or in academia is that of feeling important.
A person merely watching the clock on the job; a spouse who is taken for granted for what is expected or a student wanting a grade of 72 when a 70 is passing is a person who fails to see their role as being important enough to make a difference.
We live in a sociological, psychological and spiritual milieu where everybody is a somebody and relationships may always remain fractured when the interests of theirs are ignored.
One of the great losses in family life is the disregard for that time when families gathered for the family dinner and each family member was provided with the opportunity to share the moments of the day, both good and bad. What the member experienced was not only the time to unload their joys and high moments as well as their hurts and disappointments, but also the satisfaction that someone was interested enough to listen.
What better way to communicate our love for someone than to trust that person with our feelings, from which the listener wants the best for us. Not only is our text sound spiritual counsel, but it also points the way to healthy satisfactions for a life well-lived.
We all have had the experience of being in a relationship where the conversation is all one way. We are told that a person all wrapped up in themselves is a very small package. Nothing is more frustrating than to relate with someone with strong narcissistic needs.
Most every situation one can imagine receives either a healthy or neurotic need.
Eating is obviously healthy for nutrition of the human body. But think of the neurotic needs one has for junk food that creates obesity.
Love is obviously a healthy experience for the human condition. But think of those neurotic needs to manipulate or control others in the name of love.
Work is obviously a healthy expression of our creativity. But think of those neurotic times used as avoidance from family responsibilities.
When neurotic, we think only of our own needs. As Paul suggests, when healthy, we think of others.
When we consider the needs of others and make people feel good about themselves, it is amazing that the response is often the recipient giving back many times over what they have received. The Master had insight on this point by saying “to do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
We all have two kinds of relationships: intrapsychic, when we think only of ourselves; and interpersonal, where we think of others. Paul made it clear that the egos of most people care for themselves, but the healthy self with a good self-image will consider the needs of others.
There is a wonderful message from American Indians that reads: “Don’t judge a person until you have walked two moons in his moccasins.” Therapy and counseling are most effective not by telling someone what to do, but when a troubled person is brought to that point when he sees he has value and worth that motivate a healthier style of life.
The author sir Alexander Peterson agrees with our text today when he writes: “Make us masters of ourselves that we may be the servants of others.” It is amazing how enriched one’s life becomes when they serve the needs of others.