If Harmony Could Choose Its Own Team

violin picLast 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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About Diane Rivers

Diane is a native Floridian whose career as an FBI Agent got her transferred to the North. She's retired from that gig now and "repurposed" as a freelance writer, author, and sometimes poet who blogs about the bumpy, bone-jostling ride of her “workaround” life. She loves Jesus, her family, black coffee, kayaking, biking, and hiking, and she looks forward to eternity with the One who will make all things beautiful. (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

4 thoughts on “If Harmony Could Choose Its Own Team”

  1. Thanks Diane, great post! It strikes me that so many of the examples you bring out are small and local. That seems right. It is easy to be “humble” when on display, but that kind of defeats the purpose! Being humble under wraps is another story…

    1. Being “humble under wraps” – yes. That certainly does require a certain level of emotional maturity. It’s a subtle shift, really, to measure one’s response and intentionally choose civility, especially in challenging interactions. Thanks for your thoughtful input as always, Allen.

Your feedback is welcome!