When asked which was the most difficult instrument to play, the great conductor Leonard Bernstein said, “Second fiddle. I can always get plenty of first violinists, but to find one who plays second violin with as much enthusiasm, now that’s a problem. And yet if no one plays second, we have no harmony.”
Personally, I really struggle with this. My love language is “words of affirmation”, my personality has this built-in desire to be liked, and if I’m not careful, my actions (and sometimes my words) scream “LOOK AT ME” like a melodramatic toddler. It can be difficult for me to get motivated when no one is watching or when becomes apparent that I won’t get any credit for a job well done.
Everyone enjoys a pat on the back now and again, but I thrive on them. My wife sent me an encouraging text message a few weeks ago and I took a screen shot, printed it out, and taped it to my computer. I’m looking at it right now, extremely grateful that my wife speaks my love language and affirms me on a regular basis.
Knowing all of this – and knowing my bent toward pride and puffery – I have to guard my motives carefully. What do I hope to gain? Why am I doing this?
“For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” -Galatians 1:10
I attended a meeting recently, for which I had done a considerable amount of behind-the-scenes work. The organizer announced that he wanted to recognize several people who had made this event possible. I adjusted my collar and made sure my hair was in place as he began calling out the names. First were his business partners, followed by notable board members and then staff. A quick assessment told me that he was going in order of importance and, in my pride, I assumed my name would be near the top of this list. A few minutes later people stood all around the auditorium and I was still seated in my folding chair like a deflated balloon. Even that fleeting thought – “he saved the best for la…,” was quickly dashed upon the rocks as everyone was seated to a round of applause.
My first thought was, “Well, that was a waste of my time.” followed quickly by, “I won’t do that again even if they ask me.” But right away the Holy Spirit began to convict me. “What’s your motive, Robert? Did you do this in service to God and others? Or just to be recognized.” It was a humbling experience – a gut check – and now I praise God for it.
“Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” -Philippians 2:3
It’s easy to be enthusiastic about your job when it’s more prominent, but when you feel like your labor goes unnoticed and unappreciated it can begin to feel like a grind. When you go to work each day you may feel like you’re in a “nothing job” that gives little satisfaction, but remember, you can glorify God by your attitude and your motives! In Colossians the apostle Paul reminds us:
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” -Colossians 3:23, 24
Lord, help remind me every day that you are glorified when I work enthusiastically, knowing that my labor is for You and my reward comes from You, even if I’m playing second fiddle.