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Called to Irrelevance

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Called to Irrelevance
As a Christian in business my feet reside in two worlds. In one, the message I receive is to be overly confident and project a powerful image. In the world where my foot is planted joyously on a path of following Christ, I am told the opposite. Not only should I be humble, but I am to mold my heart to that of a servant, to fall on my knees with basin and towels and reverently wash the feet of my fellow human beings. What kind of business person is that?

That is a person in business who makes himself irrelevant. It means caring more about the customer’s needs than whether you will profit. It means sending someone to a competitor if they have exactly what the customer requires. It means standing in the world emotionally title-less, because titles can metamorphose into a crown upon your head, and it’s hard to bend down and listen with that weight on your brow.

Years ago I sat one afternoon at a friend’s cottage, visiting with his father, an elderly man semi-crippled by arthritis. With some prodding, Mr. Lundahl told me a little bit about his life. He had founded the photo intelligence unit of the CIA, and was responsible for finding the missiles in Cuba that led to the Cuban Missile Crisis during the Kennedy administration. His government work opened up an amazing world of places and people. He had met Jack Kennedy, traveled the planet, shaken hands with heads of state. On his wall was a large photograph of the earth taken from the moon and given to him as a gift by NASA. But then my friend's father turned the attention away from him and asked about me, offered me iced tea, and lamented that he couldn’t rise from his chair to give me a proper goodbye. The gentleman I sat with that summer day epitomized the kind of person I would want to do business with; someone who, no matter how much they have accomplished, meets each individual without an inflated view of their own relevance.

Henri Nouwen, in his book “In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership”, talks about the need of leaders to become completely irrelevant and to stand in the world with nothing to offer but his or her vulnerable self.

Nouwen says, “The great message that we have to carry, as ministers of God’s Word and followers of Jesus, is that God loves us not because of what we do or accomplish, but because God has created and redeemed us in love and has chosen us to proclaim that love as the true source of all human life.”

Being a business person as well as a servant may not sound like good sense out there in the world. However, I believe success isn't achieved by eradicating humbleness and compassion, but by possessing those qualities. As a follower of Christ it is the path I am called to walk in all of my life.

About the author:
Anne Marie Goodrich is co-founder of MyLifeSeeds.com, a web site for women that provides business resources, restful and rejuvenating articles, stories, poetry, creative printables and more. Ms. Goodrich is a mother, graphic designer, and writer. For more information visit www.mylifeseeds.com.

This article is available for reprint with author's resource box intact and all links live and clickable. Copyright is reserved by author.

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