Last week’s “Monday Manna” looked at consequences of submitting to the insistent demands of our egos, doing whatever is necessary to ensure getting what we desire. Recently I came across an illustration from nature that demonstrates the virtues of very different behavior.
The story comes from Ulrich Zwingli, a leader of the Protestant Reformation in Switzerland in the early 1500s. He and Martin Luther, the catalyst for the Reformation, were locked in a serious dispute, and Zwingli was at a loss in trying to resolve the conflict. He found the solution one morning while gazing at the side of a mountain.
He observed two goats approaching each other on a narrow path on the mountainside, one going up and the other going down. Upon seeing one another they stopped, then lowered their heads. It appeared they were about to charge each other. However, instead of butting heads, the goat ascending the mountain lay down on the path. The descending goat was able to step over the other’s back, and the animals were able to proceed unimpeded.
If the goats had chosen to butt heads, one may have prevailed. But the result might also have been disastrous for both. So one bowed before the other, in effect humbling itself, which eventually enabled it to advance higher.
How often do we see instances in the business and professional world of two or more people fixed on their goals and objectives, determined to not let anything stand in their way? When they do encounter opposition, they insist on butting heads, battling to a bitter and sometimes bloody conclusion.
But consider the lesson Zwingli learned from the goats. One of them deferred briefly to the other, leading to a “win-win” outcome. Would not this approach have merit for resolving workplace conflicts? This principle finds ample support in the Bible. Here are some of the things it has to say:
Go lower to get higher. Being willing to defer to the interests of another should not be one-sided. Both benefit when they are willing to “submit” or be “subject” to one another.Just as a submarine goes under water, submitting or being subject to others means intentionally putting oneself under another. “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21).
Superiors and subordinates should yield to one another. The customary business model is for superiors to exert their authority over those that report to them, but the best leaders are ones having the interests of their employees at heart. “Slaves (employees), obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ…. And masters (superiors), treat your slaves (employees) in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven…” (Ephesians 6:5-9).
Work with an attitude of humility toward coworkers – and to God. Rather than demanding your desires, relating humbly toward others can win their good favor and support. ”Be submissive to those who are older…clothe yourselves with humility toward one another” (1 Peter 5:5-6). “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Submit yourselves, then, to God” (James 4:6-7).
Robert J. Tamasy is vice president of communications for Leaders Legacy, Inc., a non-profit organization based in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A. A veteran journalist, he has written Tufting Legacies (iUniverse); Business At Its Best: Timeless Wisdom from Proverbs for Today’s Workplace (River City Press); and has coauthored with David A. Stoddard, The Heart of Mentoring (NavPress). For more information, see www.leaderslegacy.com or his blogs, www.bobtamasy.blogspot.comand www.bobtamasy.wordpress.com.
1. What do you think of the illustration of the two goats approaching each other on the mountainside?
2. Have you ever had a circumstance in the workplace similar to the potential conflict the goats were facing? If so, describe the situation and how it was handled.
3. When you hear termsj like “submit” or “be subject to others,” what thoughts come to your mind? Is it difficult to “submarine” yourself by deferring to others? Why or why not?
4. Which of the biblical principles cited seem most meaningful for you? Explain your answer.
NOTE: If you have a Bible and would like to review additional passages that relate to this topic, consider the following verses:
Proverbs 11:2, Proverbs 15:33, 16:18, 18:12, 22:4; 1 Corinthians 16:15-16; 1 Peter 2:18-20