During High School, I found employment with a moderately sized chain store. To be honest, it wasn’t the greatest job in the world. Each year, the management made a big to-do about issuing performance reviews to each of its employees. And each year, I (along with every other employee), passed several weeks dreading my anticipated “marks” on what often proved to be an unfair test.
Over the course of a two week period, management would sit down with each member of the sales team to review our practical skills and evaluate our personality traits. While much of the interview focused on staff members as individuals, it was not uncommon for all of us to receive a negative mark for an error which had been made by only a few of our coworkers.
As frustrating as this was to have my own perfect scores ruined by the carelessness of my fellow employees, it didn’t take long to realize that job survival depended upon more than just my own work ethic, but also upon my ability to play as a part of the team. And that teamwork included making my coworkers look good and save face whenever it was honestly possible to do so. If I wanted to win, I had to have their backs.
If you’re at all like I am (and I’m willing to bet that you are), this protection of the unworthy others seems a touch counterintuitive: the American dream is, after all, the self-made man. We all want to be our own person, to rise to the top under our own steam, and to owe nothing to anyone. Unfortunately, this issue of pride often leads to our downfall in the real world. If we’re totally honest with ourselves, there’s nothing good that happens in our lives that at least one other party isn’t involved with in some way. If we live in a house, there was a builder. If we have clothes, there was a seamstress. If we have an education, there were teachers. If we have a car, there was a salesman. And if we have a job, there is a boss… and fellow employees.
You can deny this interdependence, but it does exist and you’ve probably already experienced it within the realm of the church. In 1 Corinthians 12:14-26, Paul explains, “For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. If they were all one member, where would the body be? But now there are many members, but one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”’ or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.”
If getting along with one another within the Church requires each of us to function as a part of an whole, it shouldn’t surprise us that getting along in the workplace involves developing the same sort of skills. More than that, however, being a team player involves understanding both who we are and what our job is. (To be continued…)