Which is more important: ME or WE?
On the one hand, I cannot avoid the fact that I am inescapably a ME. That’s simply how I experience myself every day. But on the other hand, I can’t avoid the fact that I am also inescapably part of a WE (unless I go and live as a hermit on a desert island by myself!) Since both are inescapable, I will never be at peace until I find a stable and satisfying way of meshing them together.
In our modern world there are two main solutions on offer. In many traditional and non-Western cultures, ME is subordinated to WE. The WE (family or society) imposes a role and expectations upon ME – and my value depends on how well I live up to those standards.
Modern Western culture is the opposite. The WE is subordinated to the ME. The way I find worth and value as a person is not by living up to others’ standards but by making my own standards and then living up to those. Steve Jobs (co-founder of Apple Computers) said, “Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions – drown out your own inner voice. Have the courage to follow your own heart and intuition.” It is the view that I must reach down inside myself, find the true ME and then be true to the true ME – at all costs. The greatest heroism is to be true to ME; to be authentic. The greatest ‘sin’, is to not be true to ME; to be inauthentic (or to cause someone else to be inauthentic).
Whilst there are some strengths in both of these approaches to the ME-WE dilemma, both are actually dangerously unstable – in the same way that a two legged stool is not stable. I cannot trust it to hold my weight reliably for any length of time.
The Bible, however, offers us a three-legged stool. ME and WE can only be brought into a stable and healthy relationship with each other when THEE is introduced into the equation.
My favourite illustration of this is in the film ‘Chariots of Fire’. It’s the story of two exceptionally gifted sprinters competing in the Olympics; Eric Liddell and Harold Abrahams. Both manage to win gold medals in different events but the difference between them is striking. Harold Abrahams doesn’t smile once in the entire film. He wins a gold medal but can’t enjoy it because he is so burdened by the need to prove himself. He says, “When that gun goes off I have 10 seconds to justify my existence”.
Eric Liddell, on the other hand, is free from that burden. He can enjoy his gold medal because there is a THEE in his life as well as a ME and a WE. He says, “God made me fast. And when I run I feel his pleasure”.
Only THEE can resolve the conflict between ME and WE.