What’s the most important life lesson you’ve ever learned?
While it might not immediately come to mind, I would suggest that one of the most significant lessons we can ever learn is the power and importance of cooperation. Learning how to work effectively with others to accomplish a task, complete a mission or contribute to a common cause is a mark of mature character.
Cooperation is also very rewarding. It increases our productivity, enlarges our gifts, builds great memories and grows meaningful relationships. Real, heart-level cooperation on a staff or team results in an incredible feeling called “esprit de corps.” It creates synergy. It makes work much more fun. While amazing feats can certainly be accomplished by individual people, it’s not very enjoyable to reach a peak alone. Mountaintop vistas are meant to be shared!
Cooperation is both an attitude and an action. It’s a way of thinking and behaving. Cooperative people decide to truly “join up.” They choose to be an active part of something bigger than themselves. They willingly and enthusiastically contribute their best to group efforts. They freely share and support. They see the team’s “goal” as much more important than their particular “role.” They even change their vocabulary. Words like “me, my and mine” are replaced with “we, us and ours.” Personal arrogance and agendas are laid aside.
Cooperative people give their best to their assignments, but do so in ways that draw out the best in others also. They unify instead of divide. They apologize easily and forgive others quickly. They show proper deference. They demonstrate honor to others. They sincerely and reguarly communicate appreciation for others gifts and contributions to the team. They don’t participate in gossip about group members. They stop the “behind the back” conversations, and refuse to play the games of petty politics. They are morale-builders and momentum producers. While they have opinions, they’re not opinionated in spirit. They’re “big people” in heart; gracious and generous.
The Bible encourages us to be this kind of person. When the Apostle Paul wrote his letter to the believers at Philippi, he reminded them of the importance of cooperating with each other in God’s work:
… Make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose. Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. — Philippians 2:2-4 (NLT)
One of the main points of Paul’s charge is seen in the simple phrase “working together!” He wanted these believers to develop the character trait and learn the value of cooperation.
How about you? How well do you work with others? Are you cooperative or uncooperative? Are you obstinate and self-impressed, or are you responsive, flexible and humble? Does your presence on a team truly make it better, or does it drag the team down?
Let’s work to become more cooperative people in all of our relationships and responsibilities!