Last year I spent a fair amount of time focusing on the concept of harmony. It was my “One Word” for the year, taking the place of a litany of resolutions (which I can never keep) and focusing my attention in a singular direction that would be especially helpful to me personally.
Funny how these things work. 2013 is well past but I find I still focus on harmony and I continue to put into practice many of the things I discovered last year. I do believe that was the point of the whole exercise!
Just yesterday I came across yet another excellent way to think about harmony.
In his book, Your God is Too Safe, Mark Buchanan relates conductor Leonard Bernstein’s answer to the question, “What is the hardest instrument to play?” Without hesitation, Bernstein famously responded, “Second fiddle. I can always get plenty of first violinists. But to find one who plays second violin with as much enthusiasm, or second French horn, or second flute, now that’s a problem. And yet if no one plays second, we have no harmony.”
So there it is. Second fiddle. That hits home with me. I think “playing second fiddle” is a form of humility and without humility, we’re never going to achieve harmony.
Let’s face it, we can’t all be the Big Dog all the time, not if we want our families, our relationships, our churches and other organizations, to function in a healthy way. We have to choose humility toward one another and be willing to play second fiddle when it’s appropriate. (Even the Big Dog.)
Being humble isn’t easy. To some, it feels like weakness or defeat. But we don’t have to be “shrinking violets” or “door mats” to be humble. And humility doesn’t imply conceding every disagreement to anyone who challenges us.
I believe it can start with something as simple as just choosing to be courteous. A kind word, a polite response, a listening ear. It’s taking that half-beat before you react and asking yourself, “Is the response I’m about to give going to help or hurt this situation?” that invites humility and promotes harmony.
It could look like:
- Treating your sibling as you would a new acquaintance and being gracious;
- Responding to your spouse as you would a valued coworker whose collaboration you appreciate, even when you disagree;
- Reacting to the challenging person in your small group or on your work team as though they were your best friend’s son or daughter.
- Deciding to be considerate about the issue at hand rather than jumping to defensiveness, or insisting on being right, first, or best.
We are all leading complicated lives, every single one of us. Civility as a first response costs us nothing but could make a world of difference in all our relationships. If we would all mutually default to being courteous toward each other, before we are tempted to assume the worst and go to our ego arsenal or assume a victim posture, imagine the impact!
No doubt there are other important aspects of harmony but I would argue, if harmony could choose its own team, humility and courtesy would certainly be on the first string.
What traits would you add? Please leave a comment and share.
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- Maybe This Will Help - February 10, 2017
- I’m Firing Olivia Pope - January 24, 2017
- I’m crossing some things off my list this year - January 11, 2017
- I learned a new word - November 30, 2016
- The best question I’m asking myself these days - July 18, 2016
- A tragic story with a tender twist - May 17, 2016
- Gosh, people are a mess - May 12, 2016
- I’ll take the red carnation, thank you – revisiting an odd tradition - May 2, 2016
- The surprising thing about “weakness” - April 20, 2016
- The holiness of a four-way stop - April 13, 2016