By Scott Anthony Ward
A while ago, it was called the “Yuppie Conundrum”. Young, upwardly mobile people were confronted with others who weren’t doing so well. They might be the homeless beggars on the street. It might be the person standing at the intersection with a cardboard sign. It might be the person down the street moving out of their home because they can’t afford the mortgage. And here’s the conundrum: I want to believe that I’m doing well because I’m intelligent, talented, wise and wonderful; I want to believe that I created my own opportunities and success. My reasonable self though tells me that’s not the whole reason I enjoy my situation now. There was some providence, some luck that I happened to be in the right place at the right time with the right combination of talents, clothes and smile. The “Yuppie Conundrum” exists because we know that many people are down on their “luck”, not through any fault of their own, but because of economic cycles, mismanagement of companies by others, mergers and acquisitions, unexpectedly high medical bills and a multitude of other causes. If people can be knocked down just because they’re in the wrong place at the wrong time, people can also be raised to higher lifestyles by being in the right place at the right time.
Others will say that success comes when you’re prepared for the opportunity when it arrives. Preparation doesn’t guarantee success because the opportunity may never come. Therefore, none of us is by nature better than another. In one company, an internationally known investor was touring one of our factories. Plant management did not force him to wear protective gear, nor put out his cigar which was actually a fire/explosive danger in certain operations. There had been a controversy created by former President Trump when he visited places during the COVID-19 pandemic without a mask over his nose and mouth. While others in his entourage were masked, he either wasn’t asked to comply or was resistant to compliance believing the rules didn’t apply to him, the President. Some of us really struggle to hold those in power accountable while we can pounce quickly and yell at subordinates. Favoritism is so easy a trap to fall into.
Gary Smalley in many of his videos and seminars holds up a battered violin in some disrepair, strings dangling from its neck. How we view people is often how we perceive this violin. It’s worthless. Then he reads the name inside, “Stradivarius”, and our reaction is often one of awe. Even in its current broken-down condition, that instrument may be worth $100,000. We now know it should be handled gently and with care. We don’t want to be responsible for further damaging something so valuable.
People are priceless as well—God’s greatest creation–and should be handled with care and honor. People are God’s greatest creation, in His image. Many of us want to commune with God in nature, His lesser creations. I was inspired by one preacher to seek God in the inner city where more people live and where He is more likely to be. I would often spend time at the downtown public library, hanging out with the homeless because they’re worthy of respect. Likewise, I would intentionally mingle with different organizational tiers at company gatherings. I also spent time with laid-off employees at a bar as they grieved the loss of their jobs.
One day as I walked through the lunchroom, one of the women sitting with my daughter called out to me. My daughter was working at this company for the summer. The woman told me, “We’re encouraging your daughter to stay in college so she doesn’t end up here.” (my emphasis) I immediately stopped, slumped my shoulders in disappointment that this great employee would think it’s a shame to “end up here.” I went up to the table and replied, “If my daughter wants to work here, and would find joy in the work, I would feel honored that she’s here. What you guys do here is honorable and beneficial to our community and our customers. No one should feel like they end up here. They feel like they’re proud to be here.” As others have said, all work is honorable. All people are worthy of honor even when we might wish they would do or be better.
Assignment: As you walk around today, realize that the others prepared for their success just as much as you have. They prepared differently. They prepared for different opportunities. You are not better than they are. Though you might think they work for you, the people WITH whom you work are intelligent, talented, wise and wonderful. You should repeat to yourself, “It’s amazing that I’m allowed to work with this team because they are really remarkable people.” You are honored to be with them. Show them some honor today. Be amazed that you are in their presence.
Scriptural basis: Think about how you honor your employees or teammates as if they were Christ Himself. Ephesians 5 and 6 asks us to do just that: “Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children…Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters…as to Christ…With good will, render service, as to the Lord, and not to men…Masters, do the same thing to them, and give up threatening, knowing that both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him.” No threats, no favoritism. We are all humble children of God, people worthy of honor. James in his letter also observes how likely we are to kowtow to the rich, putting them in places of honor, while shooing the poor to the back pews. If we truly believe God created us all, then there are no echelons. As Paul writes elsewhere, “In Christ, there is no Jew nor Gentile, no slave nor free, male nor female [in essence no class or caste system], for we are all one in Christ Jesus (Gal. 3.28).