(Note: A downloadable PDF copy of this lesson is available on the last page.)
WHAT ABOUT THE REST OF THE WORLD?
You have to live with yourself. But what about the rest of the world? Your behavior toward others is just as important to building self-respect.
Interacting with people often reveals unexpected, self-centered behavior.
AROUND THE WORLD
One time a mission executive, for whom I had worked many years as his consultant, invited me to take a tour with him. We were good friends.
Finally, after a year of planning, we met in Switzerland to begin a journey that would take us around the world. Our flight was called. The exit from the terminal to the plane was a door just wide enough for one person at a time to pass through.
Since I was the executive’s consultant and wanted to be “cooperative and agreeable,” it seemed reasonable to suggest:
“You go first.”
“No, you go first,” he replied.
“No, you go first, I insisted.
Finally, I reluctantly gave in and went through the door first. To get into the airplane we had to climb a narrow stairway. On the way to the stairway, I told myself:
So help me, he is going up first.
I said to him, “You go first.”
He came back with, “No, you go first.”
We were stymied at the foot of that ladder.
Finally, he gave in and went up the ladder first. I felt better. We got inside the plane, and there were two seats. Now the question was, who gets to sit by the window?
I wanted that seat and figured that if I offered it to him first, he would refuse and I could get it. Sure enough that’s what happened.
“Why don’t you take the window seat?” I said to him.
“No, you take the window seat,” he answered. Pretending reluctance I “gave in” and took it.
This gentleman and I were friends. There was respect, admiration, and good will between us. We liked each other. He had a Th.D. degree, and I had a Ph.D. degree.
That’s a lot going for a relationship, isn’t it? How much education and friendship does it take for two men to get along smoothly? We had three problems before we even sat down on the plane. Isn’t that something?
We looked at each other sheepishly and agreed that we would surely have a hard time getting around the world.
THE INEVITABLE DEADLOCK
What was the basic problem?
First, both he and I had to face a simple truth. He wanted to run things his own way. I wanted to run things my way. In a word¬: selfishness. We fit the picture of human nature as described in Isaiah 53:6:
All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; but the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.
Second, he and I, individually, needed to repent of this self-centeredness, to be forgiven, and cleansed¬—which we did.
Third, if we were to manage the multitude of daily decisions that come up on a tour, we needed a leader to give direction.
WHO WOULD YOU VOTE FOR?
So, we called ourselves together to have an election. But we faced the thorny problem of choosing a leader with only two people voting.
Which one of us would you pick to be the leader? In order to help you decide, let me give you some facts. He was the director of the mission. His people were expecting him. Most of them had never heard of me.
Now, readers, let me tell you what happens whenever I ask my audiences to choose one of us for a leader on the basis of the above facts. The dialogue between me and the audience goes something like this:
Brandt: Let me ask you folks out there. . . how many of you would vote for me to be the leader?
(Not a single hand goes up.)
Brandt: Let me run through that question again!
(There is hilarious laughter, but no one changes a vote.)
Everyone votes for the mission director. I wouldn’t vote for me either. He was the obvious leader.
I still had my Ph.D. My experience didn’t disappear. My reputation didn’t change. It wasn’t a matter of my losing face because he was now the leader. We had simply decided, among friends, which one of us would have the last word. This way we could get to our common goal without a debate every time a little decision was needed.
We had no more problems on our trip, even though my opinion still differed with his at times. He made the final decisions, many times following my judgment. Our respect for each other grew. But we could have been bitter enemies by the time the trip was over.
THE BASICS WORKED
There are a few basic principles that governed our choices.
First, we were both committed to following the commandments as our guide for living.
Second, we consciously acted on our commitment. Here are two verses that gave us some guidance:
Be subject to one another in the fear of Christ (Ephesians 5:21).
The fear of the LORD is to hate evil; pride and arrogance and the evil way (Proverbs 8:13).
If you put these verses together, they simply mean that two men who “fear Christ” are not two cringing, fearful people, but rather two men who would want to clear away any evil, pride, or arrogance that is revealed between them and figure out a mutually agreeable way to get along.
It’s fun to cooperate.