The letter “I” is something magnificent. In Roman numerals it signifies “1.” In our culture it points to the individual (Me, Myself and I). “I” is commonly used in our language as the first letter of the prefix “in” which can be placed on several words for example: different becomes “indifferent” or the word secure can be transformed to “insecure.” This simple change creates a new meaning to the root word.
In the church world and the business world the use of “I” can be a killer of business. When “we” becomes “I” momentum shifts and feelings become numb. The interesting paradox that surrounds “I” words is that while there are five that kill business momentum there are at least three that redeem it. Those five killer “I” words are: Individualism, incrementalism, indulgence, intolerance and ignorance.
Individualism: This brings us back to our culture of the use of “I.” If it is only one person making a difference than not much difference will be made. When we take credit on an individual level and don’t promote the atmosphere of a team, we will kill the momentum that has been built. We must acknowledge the idea that no one stands alone. We are in this church, business and life together.
Incrementalism: This is the idea of thinking small. In his book “Axiom” Bill Hybels writes:
“Almost all churches have one thing in common when they first start out: sky-high idealism… People pray big prayers, they give big dollars, they donate big-time hours, and they believe God is quite capable of doing absolutely anything through them.”
When we start to think small, we shrink ourselves, our co-workers, and our vision. In the church setting when we shrink God into a something we can wrap our minds around, we cheat ourselves, our God and our churches. We serve a big God, with a big vision and we need to keep that big idea in our heads.
Indulgence: Here I don’t want to come across as a fuddy-duddy but we live a life of indulgence in America. The american church is the richest church ever to be formed; what are we doing with the riches? Most times we are spending them on ourselves, not even within the church. We buy the new car, home, computer, phone, etc…. I am guilty of this as well, but what if we reprioritized What if we took that money and those possessions that we have and gave them for Kingdom use? Not gave them away, just looked for avenues that God could use them in. It is no secret that we are blessed in the US but we could be a much larger blessing to the world if we weren’t so indulgent to ourselves. We need to up our giving of money, time and resources. As the old preacher says “We have all the money we need, the problem is, it is still in your wallets.”
Intolerance: This is a big one no matter what you do in life. Intolerance has come to the forefront of our world. It seems when we fail to understand something, we start to hate it. We become indifferent towards the subject and will not even allow that subject to state it’s case. The subject could be money, life-style choices, religion, control, etc… It doesn’t matter, the issue is when intolerance happens, systems breakdown and hatred wins the day. We have to keep conversations alive for progress to be made but if intolerance interferes we will be in the same place we started or perhaps even further apart. We may not always agree, but we can at least be civil in the discussions that happen. This goes for all areas in our lives regardless if it is at work, church or even in our own homes.
Ignorance: Some may argue that intolerance and ignorance are one in the same but there is a difference. Intolerance can happen even if we have complete understanding of the subject matter, we just draw a line and will not move from it. Ignorance however comes when we fail to research the topic and ignore the voices of reason. Ignorance is the idea that people just don’t care to learn about anything that is uncomfortable or uninteresting to their current views in life. Ignorance in a business will absolutely kill production and sales. If you don’t know what you are building or selling, your product will be a complete failure. If you are a church member or leader and ignore the Bible, the finances of the church or the community in which you live; the church will slowly die. The more ignorance in a setting the quicker the death of the product or church will happen. We have to be willing to read and educate ourselves and others if we are going to produce in our society.
Now that the gloom and doom “I” words have been identified there are a few that can fix these issues. This is not by any means an extensive list but certainly a starting off point to renew our environments in life.
Intention: When we are intention in our lives we will be more productive. When we intentionally focus our thoughts on our work, our Savior or our family that is when life change will occur. When we make an intentional effort to do the opposite of the above “I” words we will build momentum in our various arenas of life and create more joy in living. Intentional practices team-thinking, vision-casting, generosity tolerance, and education will build a better world.
Intimacy: Aside from being intentional in life, if we become intimate with life things start to change. Intimacy with your product will increase your joy for building or selling it in most cases. Intimacy with your God will build a relationship of trust with Him. Intimacy with your family will build a foundation of love. Intimacy with you church and community will create a sense of familiarity with one another that cannot be broken. When we are filled with intentional intimacy we will have an impact on where we are in life.
Integrity: Integrity is the cornerstone of trust. If we are filled with integrity it will pour out from us. People will see the moral and ethical code that God instilled in us and learn from it. Integrity is built through the ideas intention and intimacy. If we are clear that in our intent and show a deep level of intimacy toward the subject matter, then we will show our integrity. Integrity restores faith in humanity and builds up the broken in life.
This list of negatives and positives isn’t extensive but is a great place to start your thinking. As a pastor, I have seen all of these come into play at one time or another in the church. When I worked at the hospital the five demon “I’s” would rear their ugly heads but would be countered with the three “I’s” of wisdom. Regardless of who you are currently, identify the problem areas in life will allow you to make way for a new journey. Try removing a negative and adding a positive and see if this isn’t one of the best years ever.