The Needs of Others

In preparation for the upcoming semi-annual vocation retreat I co-facilitate for law students, I re-watched a video featuring Michael Himes titled Three Key Questions. In it, Himes discusses three questions essential to discerning vocation. Putting the questions in colloquial terms, he asks: What gives you joy? Are you good at it? And does anyone need you to do it?

In the course of talking about what the world needs from us, Himes suggests that many of us live our lives as though we are the stars of a motion picture in which we have the leading role. Everyone else plays a role in our motion picture, and some people may play large supporting parts. But they have supporting parts; the movie is about me, with others playing a role in my life.

Wisdom, Himes suggests, is the ability to perceive other people as other people and not simply as role players in my life and my world. The wisdom here is the ability to perceive other people as others and not as projections that fit into our desires and needs.

Central to our lives as Christians is agape, giving ourselves to others. Unless and until we think of other people as having their own significance apart from being bit players in our own story, we can’t possibly take seriously the idea of self-giving. We can’t possibly live the Gospel command to love others as ourselves.