I’m a member of the “Me” generation. Growing up in the 1960s and 1970s, I heard a lot about the importance of self-realization and doing your own thing. I wore mini-skirts and flowered shirts, watched “I Dream of Jeannie” and “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” When I was in college, all my girlfriends focused on finding careers, not husbands; if you yearned for less than having it all – a family and a career – you were considered a dinosaur, obsolete, and terribly naïve.
Contemporary culture was all about making yourself the most important person in your world.
It was also totally NOT what my Christian faith taught. I grew up on the Golden Rule, the Lord’s Prayer and the admonishment to always put others first. “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves,” instructs Philippians 2:3. For me, the high school student striving to be class valedictorian, that piece of Scripture held no allure; as I recall, I was more likely to follow the advice of Thumper’s mother in the Disney movie Bambi: If you can’t say something nice, say nothing at all.
As a result, I was a very quiet high school student when it came to discussing my classmates.
Fortunately, maturity applies not only to age, but to faith as well. Marriage and motherhood obliterated any drives I’d had to compete with others as the instinct to care for my family took precedence. I didn’t think twice about putting my children or husband first – that was just the way it was, and no matter how trying or exhausting it seemed at times, I have never regretted it. In the eyes of some of my college companions, I sacrificed a career to stay home with my kids, but I took comfort from Hebrews 13:16, “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.”
They have pleased me, too, and God continues to let me reap the fruit of putting others first. In fact, I’m reaping that fruit in a whole new way this year – I’m finding that when I put others first in my writing career, great things happen. As a memorial to my parents, I offer author programs to senior communities, who welcome me with open arms and lively discussions. As a service to fellow authors, I’ve started to organize group booksignings, which are eagerly scheduled by harried bookstore managers. I frequently donate books or talks to charities, which raise needed funds for them and expand audiences for me. I ask myself what other writers might need from me in the way of guest posts or book reviews to accomplish their own objectives.
“Honor one another above yourselves,” Paul writes in Romans 12:10. Like so many Scripture passages, these are words to live – and work – by.
(Tomorrow, Jan explores how putting others first is also a key approach to the writing craft.)