Taking second place.

“If we live in a constant spirit of repentance and self-condemnation we will automatically have good relations with our brethren. When Father Sophrony visited Serbia, he heard an Abbess give a word to her nuns and he transmitted it to us with great pleasure. She said to them, ‘Wherever you go and whatever you do, always take second place.’ We must always give preference to our brother, for this is the mind of Christ. St. Paul says, ‘Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem the other better than themselves’ [Phil 2:3]. We ought always to set our brother above ourselves, honouring him and giving him the first place because, as St. Silouan so beautifully says, ‘Our brother is our life.’”

 – Archmandrite Zacharias, Remember Thy First Love, pp. 249-250.


  1. For those of us who work in customer service call centers, these words sound alien, almost as if from another planet. Our managers depend on us to compete for the highest scores in our department, and if we don’t succeed in getting at least in the top two-thirds, we are expected to explain why not. It’s a strange expectation, given the numeric impossibility of everyone in the department ending up in the top two-thirds.

    But these words (about seeking second place) are not from another planet… they are from our Lord. How liberating it would be if Christians in call centers everywhere would deliberately drop out of competition and serve in Jesus’ name alone. Liberating, but also extremely dangerous. We might just lose our jobs. We might also change the world.


    1. Ron, you have offered a challenging and real life example of how we are in the world but not of the world. It seems to me that competition, comparison, judgment, expectation are often at the root of our differences and individualism. Perhaps letting these go and taking second place is the way of the cross. The consequences will cost us as you point out. And yet there is the very real need to care for and support our families in a difficult economy. Perhaps faithfulness is not in resolving the struggle and conflict but remaining in the struggle and conflict.



  2. I find Ron’s comment extremely enlightening. It’s only when you hear of contexts like that, that you realise just how profoundly difficult it is to follow the One who walked that road. The word “self-condemnation” is a little disturbing for me.


    1. Yes, the Way sets before us real implications and choices. I think the words of “self-condemnation” are hard for us to hear and necessary. They in some way point to how difficult it is to follow Christ’s way and continually push us to surrender to God’s grace and mercy. To the extent we “self-condem” we are not judging or condemning others and we avoid God’s judgment and condemnation.

      Thanks for your comment Don. Always good to hear from you.



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