People in our post post-modern society love things and use people. People are used to getting places, climbing ladders, and selling and buying stuff. Things are fantasized about and sought after in the same greedy way. By far and away most of us Westerners live with more but have paradoxically and increasingly less in the spiritual and emotional bank. We may have flash cars, nice homes, a boat, and lots of technological gadgets and other stuff. More than we’d ever use half the time. Or if we do use them all, there’s less time left for doing ‘internal’ work with ourselves or relating with people.
Not only do we love things but we tend to use people. Our closest relationships are typically there for us, and for our disposal. We all love our spouses, kids, and families but how often do we sell them out to our own needs? This is evidenced by the many dysfunctions and arguments that mar most families. Not just that; what about our ‘second-tier’ relationships? Those of our work colleagues and acquaintances, where at least mentally we conceive where we might manipulate a discussion, meeting or relationship to serve our own purposes — for instance, to be heard. The final frontier is on the road, where the selfish behavior of using people reaches the lowest standard, where people are abused wholesale for making innocent mistakes and we try and gain a fractional advantage by swapping lanes incessantly.
Do I sound harsh? Perhaps. There is no doubt there are many people who have the balance the other way, the right way, around. That is to put people first and utilize things as required. “Love people, use things” could be the mantra.
What should we do to reinforce the mantra?
– Listen to people and be patient with them.
– Be prepared to lose the odd battle for the greater benefit of the team (or family).
– Give more than you receive.
– Say sorry often when you make mistakes and mean it.
– Give people the best resource you can give them; your time. Now that’s a good investment!
– When you’re out in the world, respect fellow human beings — especially people you don’t know.
– Resist the love of things. Stop materialism in its tracks.
– Reject “retail therapy” as the sham it is.
– Be thankful for the things you’ve accumulated but don’t worship them.
– Don’t waste the resources available to you; respect them appropriately.
– Try sharing your things with other people (to show you love them), and even give them away if they serve you no valid purpose anymore.
No one would admit to not loving their families or friends as much as their stuff, but this is a firm challenge for each one of us to get the balance swinging more into the “love people, use things” direction. If we do this we can also tap into the reservoir of our own psyche to not only become a better person, but become more relational and more spiritual at the same time. It just bears thinking about.
Acknowledgment for the base idea of this article goes to Dr. Paul E. Koptak, whose wonderful commentary on Proverbs is a must read. (NIV Application series; Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2003).
Copyright © 2008, Steven John Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.