Putting Others Ahead of Oneself
“ME FIRST. I come first.” This is a common attitude in the world today, even though it may not be expressed in just those words. From youth on, many persons are urged to outdo others, to project themselves ahead of the other fellow. Frequently persons are even taught that they are superior to others.
But consider: Which person is more desirable, making the better companion—the one who always seeks to be first and insists on his own way? Or the person who is considerate and who puts others ahead of himself?
Common experiences can help one to analyze the matter. Two persons, for example, may approach a door at almost the same time. One brusquely pushes through the door ahead of the other person. How do you feel toward the one who thus puts himself ahead? Your estimation of him is usually lowered, is that not so? Without a doubt the person who is considerate and is inclined to put others ahead of himself is the preferred companion.
We can also make it a habit to put others ahead of ourselves in our daily conversation. Not all persons do. Some frequently butt in when others are speaking, and endeavor to control the conversation. How much more desirable, though, is the person who, instead of pressing to be heard, welcomes, even asks for, the observations of others, and listens attentively to what they have to say.
Another opportunity to put others ahead of ourselves is sometimes afforded at public assemblies where there are limited seats, or limited desirable seats. How fine it is to see a person put ahead of himself an older person by offering him his seat!
Christians are motivated to treat one another with such consideration, putting others ahead of themselves, because of the fine admonition received in God’s Word. Love “does not look for its own interests,” they are reminded. And the Bible gives the fine counsel: “Let each one keep seeking, not his own advantage, but that of the other person.”—1 Cor. 13:5; 10:24.
This does not mean, however, that a Christian neglects or fails to take care of his own interests. There are personal interests that it is necessary that he take care of. For example, his own spiritual interests and, if he is married, the spiritual interests of his family. These should be cared for.—Matt. 5:3.
At the same time, though, one following the Bible principle of ‘seeking the advantage of the other person’ will be inclined to put others ahead of himself. This attitude can be demonstrated in the family. For example, the husband may desire to go one place for a vacation, and his wife may have another preference. Due to his position as head, the husband can always insist on making the decision that pleases himself. (1 Cor. 11:3) On the other hand, he can lovingly put his wife’s interests ahead of his own, doing what she prefers on occasions. And what a fine response this can stimulate in her!
Similarly, when no difficulties are foreseen or no Bible principles are violated, the Christian overseer can win the love and support of his Christian brothers by putting their preferences and wishes ahead of his own. He does not have to be first all the time, or to have his own way. Jesus Christ, the chief overseer under God, impressed upon his followers the matter of humility, even washing their feet, thus putting them ahead of himself.—John 13:5.
This humble attitude of mind is wisely shown by Christians today. It was demonstrated by a mature Christian overseer of Jehovah’s witnesses who was attending a social gathering. Because of his position it was expected that he would sit at the head of the table. However, he quietly asked another to do so, a dedicated Christian who was older in years than himself, and before this one could object, he took another seat at the table. (Lev. 19:32) What a fine effect this act of putting another before himself had on ones who observed! Of course, at times it would be appropriate for an overseer to accept the invitation to take the prominent or first place.
Christian overseers and all who desire to win the friendship of God can benefit from the example set on one occasion by the prominent patriarch Abraham. Circumstances arose that necessitated that he and his younger nephew Lot separate, each taking with him his large flocks. Notice how Abraham handled the situation. He said to Lot: “If you go to the left, then I will go to the right; but if you go to the right, then I will go to the left.”—Gen. 13:9.
Abraham, as the elder and head, was logically the one to have preference, to receive first choice of the land. But no, he did not put his own wishes first. Rather, he gave precedence to a subordinate. What a fine example of humility, of consideration for others!
Although it is common in the world to push ahead and try to be first, clearly it is more desirable when persons are inclined to put others ahead of themselves. Rather than being a sign of weakness, this is an evidence of true humility. It is imitating the example of Jesus Christ, Abraham and other God-fearing persons. We will realize fine benefits by making it a habit to put others ahead of ourselves.