Community vs. Individual Achievement

I received a glossy 40-page or so brochure the other day from the law firm at which I practiced law before moving into legal academia.  The brochure highlighted the firm’s achievements in 2007 in its various practice areas.  It recounted an impressive amount of pro bono work in a variety of areas, including a partnership with ACCION NY (a not-for-profit organization serving microentrepreneurs) and representation on behalf of those seeking asylum.

However, what most impressed me was the fact  that nowhere throughout all the pages of the entire glossy report did there appear the name of any individual lawyer.  Rather than showcase individual stars, the focus was on the collective achievement of the firm.  I’m not saying there are not other venues in which the firm recognizes individual lawyers; certainly there are.  But what was celebrated here in this “annual report” was the firm, the community.

We live in a society that prizes individual achievement and goals, often to the exclusion of our lives in community and the achievement of communal goals.  The ego wants to know what I did, not what we did; wants glory for the self, not for the group.

But community is essential to who we are as humans.  We flourish in community and we are called to labor communally with God to transform the world to Kingdom.  That requires that we focus on the common good and on achievement of God’s plan, not on our own aggrandizement.  What matters is the realization of God’s vision for the world, not who has what piece in attaining it.  Yet the ego will always try to pull us away from the communal and toward the individual.

In my post about John the Baptist yesterday, I talked about John as a model for recognizing it was about God, not about him.  Albeit in a more secular context, the law firm’s brochure serves as a model for keeping the focus on the attainment of communal goals rather than individual ones, reminding us that it is about the people of God with God, and not about any one individual.


3 thoughts on “Community vs. Individual Achievement

  1. Susan,

    What a fantastic blog! Thanks for sharing your reflections here — I particularly like your take here on the idea of community. I will definitely be adding your blog to my daily read.

    Thanks again.

    Mark in Spokane (from Libertas et Memoria)

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