Learning to Get Over Myself for the Sake of Unity

Beth Demme Blog Leave a Comment

Maybe My Opinion Isn’t The Most Important Thing

You may not be able to relate to this, but I need regular reminders to get over myself. I tend to think of my ideas, opinions, and viewpoints as “right” or “best,” instead of just seeing them as “mine.”

When I convince myself that my way is the right, best, or only way, I can’t really hear what other people say. I think this is one of the reasons it has become difficult to hear people talk about important topics like religion and politics. I’m more interested in convincing you to see things (everything!) my way than I am in hearing your way.

As I pursue my master’s degree, Seminary is giving me many opportunities to get over myself. It’s beautiful.

Recently, I took a class on worship. Our final assignment was to plan and host a worship service in the Seminary’s chapel. Imagine 22 experienced pastors trying to plan a single worship service. I quickly learned that you can’t plan something meaningful with 20+ other people if you can’t get over yourself.

The professor, wiser than us, helped by telling us the worship service would not include a sermon. Instead of arm-wrestling to see who would get to preach, we had to come up with a creative way to convey the message of the chosen scripture passage.

The scripture passages for that Sunday presented a variety of possible themes—marriage as a metaphor for faithful spirituality, the significance of the covenant relationship between God and people, steadfast love, and more. Ultimately, the class agreed to center the worship service on the theme of unity, using 1 Corinthians 12:7 as our theme verse: “A demonstration of the Spirit is given to each person for the common good.”

I liked this verse, but it was NOT the theme or the verse I wanted to use.

I wanted to build a worship service around the theme of God’s steadfast love using Psalm 36:5, “Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.”

It turns out, the class was right. Unity was exactly the right theme.

Working with twenty-one other pastors to plan a worship service was an exercise in unity. Without even realizing it, we ended up living into our chosen theme in a powerful way.

We used puzzle pieces as visual elements throughout the worship space and on the bulletin. Some of the more creative people in the class (i.e., not me) organized a brief skit where people discovered their spiritual gifts—each gift was a piece of a puzzle they had to work together to create. Finding their gifts and completing the puzzle led them to experience unity or, as it says in 1 Corinthians 12:7, “the common good.”

I’m grateful for a hands-on lesson in unity.

I’m grateful because it’s helping me see that the common good is more important than being right. In fact, my ideas, opinions, and viewpoints are only valuable to the extent they add something to the bigger picture and the common good.

Instead of trying to convince myself (and others) that my way is the right way, best way, or only way, I hear God telling me to get over myself. I hear God inviting me to listen and learn.

God is showing me there is something more important than what I think, feel, or believe.

“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone.  To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” (1 Corinthians 12:4-7)

Similarly, there are varieties of ideas, opinions, and viewpoints—mine aren’t the only ones! Maybe if I can get over myself and listen to others, God can use our differing ideas to produce something positive for the common good.

What about you? Are you open to listening? Does it come naturally to you or does it happen only with extra effort? Have you ever thought about the value of unity as a higher calling? Tell me about it in the comments, in an email, or on Facebook.

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