“You start too many sentences with the word ‘I’.”
“The impudence! The audacity! The unmitigated gall!” (Thank you, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, ©2000.)
When my supervisor told me this, it was received far closer to how the Grinch received Cindy Lou’s encroachment into his home than how I should have received it. But he was right: regardless of how I might have meant it to sound, too many sentences began with “I”.
The diagnosis: I had an “I” problem and couldn’t see it (see what I did there?).
As a culture, our rugged individualism often clashes with others in many ways:
- the way we treat others when we disagree with them
- the words we chose when correcting others
- the opinion we hold of our own opinions
We can all slip into “I” problems.
King Solomon noticed this problem as well. In Ecclesiastes 4:7-16 he pens:
7 Again I saw something meaningless under the sun:
8 There was a man all alone; he had neither son nor brother. There was no end to his toil, yet his eyes were not content with his wealth. “For whom am I toiling,” he asked, “and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?” This too is meaningless— a miserable business!
9 Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: 10 If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. 11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? 12 Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
13 Better a poor but wise youth than an old but foolish king who no longer knows how to heed a warning. 14 The youth may have come from prison to the kingship, or he may have been born in poverty within his kingdom. 15 I saw that all who lived and walked under the sun followed the youth, the king’s successor. 16 There was no end to all the people who were before them. But those who came later were not pleased with the successor. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.
Alone is not only a sad way to live, it’s a dangerous way to live. Interestingly, Solomon doesn’t even take the most obvious (to us) approach to being alone and that is marriage. Instead, he speaks of life in general.
He speaks of business ventures and partnerships. A mentor of mine often says, “a team outperforms an individual any day of the week”. Very true statement. The whole (of a team) is much more than the sum of its parts.
He speaks of wisdom and warnings. When we isolate ourselves with only “I” as our primary counsel, we are treading into dangerous and deadly waters. Left to “I”, we’ll drive “me” into a ditch.
And it’s “meaningless, a chasing the wind”: it’ll get you nowhere but running around in circles.
We’re not meant for singularity; we’re meant for community.
And community is more than “me, myself, and I”. Don’t settle for the community of “I”—it’s not real.
Open yourself to others.
Be open to them.
Give an invitation to spend time with a friend.
Take an invitation to spend time with a friend.
Let’s work to rid ourselves of our “I” diseases and enjoy the messiness, complexity, madness, happiness, fun, and pleasure of living life in community.