Advent is, above all else, a season of hope – a virtue that is all too rare in our world. To live as a person of hope is to behave in such a manner as to draw suspicion that we are behaving somewhat erratically as far as worldly norms go. This new type of behavior – what some may even call erratic behavior (the behavior that led people to conclude that the Apostles were “under the influence” on Pentecost) – is characterized by 9 attitudes. I call them 9 Advent Attitudes. Today, we look at Advent Attitude #6. (Drawn from my upcoming book, Under the Influence of Jesus: The Transforming Experience of Encountering Jesus.)
Advent Attitude #6: Having Others’ Best Interests in Mind
I learned the definition of “slick salesman” when I was growing up and working in my Dad’s drugstore. We had a constant flow of salespeople stopping in, eager to sell my dad the latest product(s) that they promised would fly off the shelves. While they all seemed so friendly towards my dad, I noticed that my dad was lukewarm in response to some. It turns out that these were the salespeople who had “burned” my dad on previous occasions. Their friendliness was not authentic but was simply a front in order to sell.
And that brings us to our next Advent attitude: having others’ best interests in mind. While all the salespeople who called on my dad were friendly and acted as though they had his best interests in mind, only a handful actually DID have his best interests in mind: their goodness was authentic and they would go out of their way to help my dad succeed. In doing so, they earned his trust.
In Scripture, goodness is more than mere amiability. It is an attribute of God manifested by his constant attention to humankind’s best interests, even when humankind repeatedly failed. And the greatest example of God having our best interests in mind was the sending of his only Son, Jesus! God truly went out of his way to ensure that we have everything we need to “succeed” in the Kingdom, namely, his steadfast love and presence.
We, in turn, are called to bring that goodness of God – always having others’ best interests – to others. Goodness is not measured by one’s ability to simply avoid doing badness. Rather, it is an active trait – an almost compulsive desire to pursue the best interests of others, often at the cost of one’s own needs. George Bailey (It’s a Wonderful Life) comes to mind. He was someone who continually put his own dreams on the back burner in order to enable someone else to achieve theirs. When people see such authentic goodness, they know that the person can be trusted.
Advent calls us to stretch beyond our comfort zones in order to reveal God’s goodness to others. We do that by having their best interests in mind and by putting our own needs aside. That’s what it means to lay down your life for another: it does not necessarily mean to physically die but to set aside your own needs in favor of tending to the needs of others. Parents and spouses do this each and every day which is which is why I consider marriage and parenthood to be 2 of the most significant conversion experiences in a person’s life. In addition to these 2 profound vocations, however, anyone who unselfishly and sincerely provides a service to another person, even when receiving remuneration, is participating in goodness: teachers, first-responders, customer service representatives, medical personnel, hairdressers, flight attendants, and so on. No matter what situation they find themselves in, they make it a habit of having the best interests of others in mind…just like God.
The Practice of Having Others’ Best Interests in Mind
- Start with those closest to you: spouse, siblings, children, parents, grandparents, etc. Make a conscious effort to show those closest to you that you have their best interests at heart.
- Step outside of your comfort zone at work and go out of your way to help someone else succeed, not for your sake, but for theirs.
- Pray in thanksgiving each day for those who have your best interests in mind and ask for the grace you need to imitate their selflessness.
How abundant are the good things that you have stored up for those who fear you, that you bestow in the sight of all, on those who take refuge in you. (Ps 31:19)