“No society of nations, no people within a nation, no family can benefit through mutual aid unless good will exceeds ill will; unless the spirit of cooperation surpasses antagonism; unless we all see and act as though the other man’s welfare determines our own welfare” (Henry Ford II).
THIS THING WE CALL “COOPERATION” IS ONE OF THE HARDEST AND MOST CHALLENGING THINGS IN THE WORLD. Compared to the difficulty of cooperation, fighting is quite easy. And because fighting is easier (at least in the short run), we often quit communicating and start lashing out. Antagonism replaces cooperation in our relationships — with heartbreakingly destructive results.
In our more sober moments, we all know there is much to be gained by cooperation. Nobody is self-sufficient, and more good work can be done with others than any of us could do by ourselves. It may be trite but it is still true: we are stronger together.
But in addition to the value of cooperation, we need to see the necessity of it. We inhabit a world where everybody is interconnected. Like it or not, our actions impact others and their actions impact us. “If we could all agree that the world belongs to God we would see the world as a cooperative fellowship. We of the human race are so bound together and so interdependent that it behooves us all to live for the good of the whole” (W. Earl Waldrop). I may not think of myself as being very influential, but I need to understand that every one of my actions contributes either to the common “weal” or the common “woe.” As a fellow human being, I owe it to you to act cooperatively.
In the midst of conflict, have you ever had someone rise above the difficulty and say, “I will work with you”? If so, I’m guessing you saw that as a gift and an act of grace. Why can’t we give that gift more often? Cooperation is a blessing each of us is capable of bestowing.
In the end, it is love that will make us want to give this gift. Love will look beyond the irritable aspects of another person’s behavior and see that person as having a burden we might help them bear. The best cooperation in the world happens when love says, “How can I help you?”
“God has ordered things that we may learn to bear one another’s burdens; for there is no man without his faults, none without his burden. None is sufficient in himself; none is wise in himself; therefore, we must support one another, comfort, help, teach, and advise one another” (Thomas à Kempis).