“Doesn’t being ‘second’ just make you ‘first loser?’” a smiling barista at an airport Starbucks asked me, after noticing my I Am Second hoodie.
As I took my red coffee cup (no, it didn’t have any holiday decorations) I asked, “Actually, what do you think our world could look like if we all made the choice to put God and others first?” The barista’s face lit up and he reached out to give me a high-five.
“I totally get it now! I love that!” he said.
Isn’t it funny just how counter-cultural it is to say “I Am Second”? It’s an upside-down way of choosing to live that isn’t typically embraced. This reminds me of a new documentary on HBO called “Trophy Kids.” It follows parents around as they involve their kids in competitive sports, revealing the darker side and high cost of what striving to always be first demands. It reflects the larger narrative of what our culture says about the insatiable need to be number one: You are nothing unless you’re first. This idea implies that somehow living second means you’re “second rate.”
But the truth is, living second doesn’t require the absence of excellence or achievement. In fact, a proper understanding of living second involves using what we’re good at to benefit others.
So, here are a couple of ways to consider how living second isn’t about being a “loser,” but rather the best way to approach life.
THINK ABOUT THE “ME FIRST” PEOPLE YOU KNOW: Think of the “me first” types at your school or work and ask yourself this: “Do the ‘me first’ people in my life make the world better or worse?” Can anyone make the case that the world needs another “me first” type person in it?
In most examples, “me first” people leave us uninspired, and, in some cases, can leave us feeling used, unimportant and devalued. Now, think of those that inspire you to be a better person just by being around them. Chances are, they not only draw out the best in you, but they also invest and inspire you to fulfill the potential they see in you. Simply put, “me first” types are normally their own biggest fans. Those who choose to live second are typically big fans of others, and the type of people that others want to be around.
HUMILITY: Unfortunately, this word has been hijacked and is often translated into “doormat.” Humility isn’t about allowing others to walk over you and abuse you. Humility, by definition, is simply “having a modest view of one’s own importance.” Humility helps us see beyond ourselves in order to consider those around us. So, humility, as it relates to living second, isn’t the absence of self-confidence, but about recognizing the value and potential in others and genuinely looking out for them. It’s valuing people because they’re people, not as means to get what you want.
SACRIFICE: Living Second requires sacrifice. There’s no way around it. To live second means finding ways to sacrifice our time, money, status, or talents for the sake of someone else. Think of those who’ve helped you get to where you are today. Chances are, it was someone who chose to live second and made the sacrifice to invest in your success. Living Second is about “paying it forward.”
Jesus — who is the ultimate example of living second — explained it this way: “…whoever wants to be first among you must become your [servant]. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” He gave the best of himself for the benefit of us all.
So, what would you say if you were asked “What does ‘I Am Second’ mean?” It’s more than a slogan; it’s a life-long pursuit in joining a counter-cultural movement committed to making the world a better place, one person and life at a time.
In the comments section, share with us some ways you can influence culture by choosing to “live second.”