Monday, February 18, 2008
Just to make myself perfectly clear: I am not some hopeless Mitt Romney fan, pining for what could have been. (You remember Mitt, though, don’t you? The guy who, if you tally up the amount of money he spent on his campaign and divide it by the number of votes he got, it would be like $10,000 per vote? Okay, that’s not at all scientific, but you remember him, right?)
No, I’m no Mitt swooner, but I’m beginning to admit that I am a bit of a politics junkie. Each day I find myself reading all the opinion pieces at RealClearPolitics (they post twice daily!), which is probably the smoking gun for my little habit. And from time to time, I read something in the news (I don’t have cable, so the talking heads have no opportunity to play Jedi mind tricks with me) that is refreshing and even a little inspiring.
After losing to John McCain in the Super Tuesday Republican primaries and seeing the handwriting on the wall, Mr. Romney decided to suspend his campaign (CNN story). And something he was quoted as saying caught my eye: “If this [i.e., his campaign] were only about me, I’d go on. But it’s never been only about me. I entered this race because I love America, and because I love America, in this time of war I feel I have to now stand aside for our party and for our country.”
Now, you cynics out there may roll your eyes and wonder what Mitt is trolling for: an appointment in a McCain administration? A fancy abmassadorship to Spain? After all, politics is always politics. But whatever you think about Mitt, you have to admit that he did a classy thing. “If this were only about me,” he said, “I’d go on. But it’s never been only about me.”
Wow. “It’s never been only about me.” Let that soak in for a second, even if it seems disingenuous to some of you. What if more politicians said things like that or even thought things like that? What if more people in Washington thought about themselves less often and about the good of our country more often? Maybe personal ambition is a key ingredient to every political career, but what if more politicians viewed themselves merely as servants of a greater cause rather than arrogant knights on a personal quest for power and prestige?
And politics aside, what would it be like if more regular people thought this way? What if our personal mantra became “It’s not about me,” rather than “What’s in it for me?”? What would our society be like if people thought about themselves less and were willing to occasionally step aside for the good of a larger cause?
It reminds me of what Jesus said once. “Those who love their life will lose it, while those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” (John 12:25 TNIV)* Of course, “hate” may come off as a strong word, but it’s simply a Hebrew idiom that points to a self-effacing attitude. In other words, those who think only in terms of self promotion–stepping on others in order to climb the ladder of success–will ultimately lose, but those who think of others first and who try to lift others up will win in this life and in the next.
You may still be a little skeptical about the authenticity of (Ambassador?) Romney’s comments. And maybe it’s just politics as usual. But at the very least, it’s a good opportunity for all of us to take a moment and begin practicing a new personal mantra: “It’s not about me.”
* Just a few more examples from the Bible that commend humility:
“Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” Mark 9:35 TNIV;
“But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.” Matthew 19:30 TNIV; and
“Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.” Romans 12:3 TNIV