Crowns and scepters. Thrones and palaces. Rulership and riches. These are the words we associate with medieval royalty.
Celebrity and ceremony. Elegance and style. Popularity and paparazzi. These are the words we associate with modern royalty.
Tattered cloth and shepherd’s staffs. A stable and manger. Humility and servant hood. These are the words we associate with the newborn king celebrated at Christmas.
Jesus of Nazareth did not live to be served — but to serve. He gave himself away on behalf of others. His example communicated a simple but profound truth: It isn’t about how far we advance ourselves but how far we advance others by adding value to them.
We add value to others when we truly value others.
Over time, I have learned that people who add value to others believe in people before people believe in themselves. They serve others instead of expecting to be served — no entitlement mentality. Jesus’s disciples began following him before they believed he was the Messiah. Why? Because he saw their potential and believed they could be influencers.
We add value to others when we make ourselves more valuable to others.
The whole idea of adding value to other people depends on the idea that you have something of value to add. In the case of Jesus, it was his wisdom, stature and favor with God and man. You can’t give what you don’t possess. Personal growth precedes influence with others.
We add value when we know and relate to what others need.
Candidly, I have found that it is dangerous to cater to what people want. You will wear yourself out trying to please them. However, it is very important to be aware of their genuine needs — the need to be accepted, the need to do meaningful work and the need to feel significant, and then help them meet those needs.
In the Wisdom of the Ages — a book I have discussed in previous columns — there is a brief narrative recorded involving Jesus and his disciples. It reads as follows:
Then his disciples began arguing about which of them was the greatest. But Jesus knew their thoughts, so he brought a little child to his side.
Then he said to them, ‘Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf, welcomes me and anyone who welcomes me also welcomes my Father who sent me. Whoever is the least among you is the greatest.’
In the above passage, notice how Jesus discerned the true need underlying the disciples’ silly boasts: the need to have influence and to make an impact. He then goes on to instruct them on how to meet the need. Accept those who are overlooked and neglected… and be a humble servant.
This verse inspired Martin Luther King, Jr., who later summarized its essence: “Everyone can be great because everyone can serve.”
Too often, I’m afraid, we see leadership in the wrong way. We trick ourselves into thinking that we’re a leader or VIP because we hold a title or position. Don’t get caught in that trap.
Serving is the highest level of living. When we spend ourselves on behalf of others, we gain the sort of fulfillment that can never be bought with money or satisfied with stuff or things.
In closing, what are you doing to add value to others? Or said differently, to lead you must first serve.
Until next time… How might you be able to “pay forward” their generosity?
— By Loren Simmonds
Loren Simmonds has been a resident of Lynnwood for 37 years. He served on the Lynnwood City Council for 16 years, including eight as Council President. He remains active in the community by serving on the Parks and Recreation Foundation Board, Civil Service Commission and the Snohomish County Planning Commission. He believes that volunteerism sows the seeds of community. Loren is semi-retired and works as a writer, speaker and leadership coach.