Do You Limit Cooperation to Your Terms?
IT IS natural for man to love liberty. But it is not wise to act too independently. There must be a ‘give and take,’ for we need one another. The very circumstances of life call for cooperation on the part of all of us.
Illustrating the need for cooperation is the item that appeared in the New York Times, October 12, 1965, captioned, “Swiss Deport U.S. Citizen in Dispute over His Home.” He was deported because of getting involved in many disputes with the local authorities over petty things, such as insisting on building his home nine inches higher than the law permitted. The government held that he was a troublemaker, who either was unable or unwilling to adapt himself to local ways. Deported, he left behind his wife and four small children.
How foolish to make issues over trifles, making trouble for oneself and others! What caused him to act this way? Too much of an independent attitude. Obviously he lacked empathy; he was unable to put himself in the shoes of his Swiss hosts. He wanted everything his own way, and so was deported because he could not fit in, refusing to cooperate with the local authorities. It was an extreme case, which highlights a common human failing.
We cannot escape it: Cooperation is the course of wisdom. As a wise king long ago observed: “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their hard work. For if one of them should fall, the other can raise his partner up. . . . And a threefold cord cannot quickly be torn in two.”—Eccl. 4:9-12.
In fact, the animals might be said to teach us the wisdom of this course—although it is no credit to them, as they act from instinct and not from choice. Thus a noted biologist, William A. Wheeler, in his book Philosophical Biology points out that there is something fundamentally social in all living things, and that “this must be a characteristic of all life, since every organism is at least temporarily associated with other organisms.” He writes that this is true even “of such supposedly unsocial creatures as lions, eagles, sharks, tiger beetles and spiders. There are, in fact, no truly solitary organisms.” According to one of America’s leading anthropologists, Ashley-Montague, among lower animals cooperation is far more pronounced and important than competition for survival; and, although a staunch evolutionist himself, he refers to Darwin’s theory of survival of the fittest as “Darwin’s Fallacy.”a
While lower animals cooperate instinctively, it is man’s glory that he can cooperate volitionally, out of choice. Cooperation has been defined as ‘the act of working with another or others to a common end.’ Implicit in cooperation, then, is a goal worth seeking to attain, and it requires that we be willing to yield or “give” for the sake of realizing that goal. In other words, it means the giving up of little things for the sake of bigger things.
For example, a man and a woman wed for the purpose of happy family life. But to realize that goal, each must be willing to make sacrifices for the sake of the other. For either to insist on having his or her own way, or limiting cooperation to one’s own terms, would be to frustrate the purpose and shut out family happiness. Yet how often we find married persons doing that very thing, robbing themselves and their mates of happiness by refusing to cooperate on terms other than their own!
For example, a wife might prevail upon her husband to go visiting her relatives, but if he is not particularly fond of them he may do little, if anything, to make the visit a truly enjoyable one. Then, again, a husband might want to bring some friends home for supper, or he might want a certain food. But if his wife does not particularly like those friends or that food, she may go about preparing the meal in an indifferent, routine way, refusing to give wholehearted cooperation, to underscore how she feels about it. How far short each is coming of doing to the other as he would have the other do to him! Yes, and also how foolish! For even as we cannot make others happy without making ourselves happy, so we cannot make others miserable by refusing to cooperate without making ourselves miserable.—Luke 6:31.
Or it may be at your place of employment that the question of cooperation comes up. The way a certain thing is being done may not make sense to you, but that is no reason for not doing your part, and that to the best of your ability. If the course pursued is not a wise one, most likely time will tell, but in the meantime give it an opportunity to succeed by doing all you can to make it succeed. As the apostle Paul counseled early Christians: “Whatever you are doing, work at it whole-souled as to Jehovah, and not to men.”—Col. 3:23.
Especially is this matter of cooperation important where voluntary work is concerned. Where there is a mutual effort for the common good and each one contributes freely of his services or goods, there is often the tendency to take oneself too seriously and to feel free to limit one’s cooperation when things are not being done as one would like to see them done, or when one is not given what one feels to be a sufficiently prominent role. Here might be said to be a test of loyalty to the cause, group or organization.
Yes, to limit your cooperation to your own terms can cause the loss of many blessings. In fact, where no principle of righteousness would be violated, there always is a blessing in yielding one’s preferences for the sake of others or the common good. It is to man’s glory that we can cooperate out of volition, because of wisdom, because of conscience and because of love. It really is a form of giving, concerning which Jesus Christ, the Son of God, said that “there is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.” So do not limit your cooperation to your own terms. Be willing to sacrifice self-will for the sake of mutual well-being and happiness.—Acts 20:35.
a Darwin: Competition and Cooperation (1950).