Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. (NIV)
Many of us do a lot of talking, but perhaps not so many of us engage in conversations. Some verbal encounters consist of one person making a statement followed by the other person making a statement. There may be no interaction, no exchange of ideas, no deep listening. What might appear to be our listening to the other person is merely our being polite in waiting for them to draw breath so we can say our piece.
Failure to listen and truly engage with another person is a sign of our self centredness. We are the centres of our universe and others revolve around us. Which is why texts like this challenge us. Our experiences and opinions do matter, but we are called to value others’ experiences and opinions above our own.
Our conversations are not to be one way, but are to be real dialogues. We are to have a genuine interest in others, rather than seeing them as objects on which we pour out all that is on our hearts and minds. How sad it is to get with someone in order to connect and find they are merely full of themselves and so incapable of conversation.
Paul goes on to note how Jesus gave up so much in order to connect with us and rescue us. In some small way, perhaps we can give up our desire to talk about ourselves for a time so we can truly converse with another person. Shutting our mouths for a while may well mean that when we finally open them we have something worthwhile to say. True conversation.