“. . . whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant . . .”
- Matthew 20:26
Several years ago during my corporate life our company changed one of its internal policies. I was furiously opposed to the change, convinced it would severely handicap our ability to transact business. Rather than focusing on ways to cooperate, I became obsessed with proving that I was right and “they” were wrong, to the point of losing sight of the customers and employees I was supposed to serve. Only when I realized that my bitterness was robbing me of my true purpose did things start to improve. The new policy, once I learned to abide by it, proved to be not nearly as harmful as I had predicted, the work environment became much more pleasant thanks to my changed attitude, and business got back on track and began to grow again.
Someone once described an imaginary scene from hell where its residents were gathered round a banquet table before a scrumptious feast – not exactly what one would expect in hell – until a closer look revealed an atmosphere of bitter agony due to the fact they unable to bend their arms in order to feed themselves. Surprisingly, the scene from heaven was identical including the stiffened arms, the difference being that there was an atmosphere of great joy and celebration. Why? Because the inhabitants of heaven used their stiffened arms to reach across the table and feed each other.
Although this little tale is intended to describe the hereafter, it is equally relevant to the here-and-now. How often do we become obsessed with surviving or thriving – or proving we are right as I did – when our true purpose should be to serve? Surviving, thriving, and proving ourselves right is all about us, which only leads to misery as demonstrated by the stiff-armed inhabitants of hell. Serving, however, is about others, and serving others is what leads to joy like the inhabitants of heaven.
“. . . whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant . . .”, or as Dr. Albert Schweitzer once pointed out, “the only really happy people are those who have learned how to serve”.