19 February, 2016 40 days of change-Lent, 2016
Altruistic – In humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests, but each of you to the interests of the others. Philippians 2:3-4
To be altruistic one must show a selfless concern for someone else’s wll-being. It might seem odd to you that I would include altruistic in a list of characteristics relating to patience. But isn’t it true that to be patient in many situations comes down to conceding to someone else’s agenda. Often others cause us to have to wait. I want my house renovation complete, but the contractor has to service other people first. I want to use the car, but someone else in my household might need it first. Allowing others to go first leaves us with the opportunity to be patient. The altruistic person acts selflessly by conceding to the schedule or agenda of another with grace and deference.
I don’t know that I have ever heard anyone describe Jesus as altruistic, but the label fits him perfectly. Your mind races to the cross, which of course epitomizes selflessness, but before we get there, let’s start at the beginning. Recognising the fact that Jesus existed before his incarnation, the selfless act of not holding on to his pre-incarnation state but setting that aside and taking the form of a human for the wellbeing of all humankind is truly altruistic. His going public with John the Baptist, leaving behind a life of anonymity for a life that cost him his life, was selfless. Think of the simple life he had as a carpenter compared to the complex life of the Christ. The delegation of the mission to the disciples was altruistic, considering Jesus could have done things himself, yet he allowed the disciples to do it, at times stumbling and saying all the wrong things, because he knew it was the best thing for them. It took patience, but he did that because for him it wasn’t about himself; that’s altruism.
I have a sense that when we get impatient, it is because our self gets in the way. We want something now or sooner rather than later. We don’t want to wait; we don’t understand why someone else should be ahead of us or even if they have reason to go first, why are they taking so long. The altruist is able to step aside and patiently wait, allowing the other to go first. You could practice this in a simple way today. When you go through a door, if someone is near you, step back and let him or her go first. If you are having a conversation with someone, pause and let them speak first. If you are standing in a queue to buy something, allow the person behind you to go ahead. It would be great if one of those people would stop and ask you why. You could say “I’m practicing being altruistic, kind of like Jesus.”