Keith Wishum: Cooperation instead of competition
“Feed me, Seymour! Feed me!”
Seymour Krelborn, in the Broadway musical “Little Shop of Horrors,” had a problem. For a while, everything had gone so well. Because of the strange new plant he’d bought, the flower shop where he worked was flourishing. Seymour’s wilted confidence was blooming, and he had finally caught the eye of Audrey, the girl of his dreams. Romance was blossoming.
But there was a problem — a big problem! Seymour and his plant had different agendas. Seymour wanted to live happily with his girl. The plant wanted Seymour’s blood! It thrived only when fed with fresh blood, and Seymour was discovering that a pricked finger no longer satisfied the plant’s growing appetite. Both could not survive. Neither was happy.
How often are we miserable because we find ourselves on a collision course with someone close to us? The other person seems out for blood, and we feel driven to fight for our lives. Everybody gets hurt. Nobody is happy.
Is there a way to keep conflicts of interest from making us miserable? The apostle Paul says, “Yes!”
He describes it in a letter to a church in conflict. Two ladies were quarrelling. Paul called on the entire congregation to work to resolve their conflict (Philippians 4:2-3). It is no accident that his next words are that they should “Rejoice in the Lord always” (v. 4). Happiness is connected to the resolution of conflict.
And how does Paul suggest that we resolve conflict? Do we get the biggest stick to ensure we win the fight? Should we develop irrefutable arguments so we prove our point?
No; happiness comes, not from getting our way, but from giving up our way. “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others,” Paul advised (Philippians 2:4).
Read that again! Think carefully about it because it challenges how we think the world works.
Happiness is not a small pie from which we must all fight for the last slice. Instead, it’s a bottomless well filled with refreshing water. To drink deeply, we need each other’s help to draw the water. We find happiness in cooperation, rather than in competition.
Are you out for blood? Is that bringing you happiness? If not, try looking out for the interests of others, instead of just for yourself. You may be surprised how much happier you’ll be.
Keith Wishum is minister, Williams Road Church of Christ, Americus