The One

Someone once said, “To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world.”

Both the former and the latter are inevitably true.

Even people who enjoy considerable fame mean very little to most of us.  They may represent or embody some measure of shared longing or common commitments, but as individuals they are strangers; and the attention that their lives receive often deludes us into thinking we know them better than we do.  What we know about them is, in fact, what we are told about them and nothing more.

“Famous people” — who don’t appear to be one among many — are placeholders of a kind.  It would be a mistake for us to think that they have transcended the very human obstacles to loving and finding love; and it would be a serious mistake for them to think that their notoriety is a substitute for loving and being loved.

To think we can mean everything to everyone is grandiosity; to think we do mean everything to everyone is narcissism.   And both are huge obstacles to healthy loving relationships.

There are countless gifts in owning that we are one among many…

  • the gift of putting God first in our lives and of trusting those we love to the only one who can finally bring balance and meaning to their lives
  • the gift of humility, which allows us to shed the burdens of grandiosity and the suffocating preoccupation of narcissism
  • the gift of real relationships in which we are loved for the person we are, rather than the role or aspirations we may or may not fulfill
  • the gift of giving love, which frees us from most of life’s more soul-destroying selfishness
  • and the gift of participation in the life of God, who is the source of our capacity for love

About Frederick Schmidt

The Reverend Dr. Frederick W. Schmidt, Jr. holds the Rueben P. Job Chair in Spiritual Formation at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, IL, and directs the Rueben Job Institute for Spiritual Formation. He is an Episcopal Priest, spiritual director, retreat facilitator, conference leader, writer, and consulting editor at Church Publishing in New York. He is the author of numerous published articles and reviews, as well as several books: A Still Small Voice: Women, Ordination and the Church (Syracuse University Press, 1998), The Changing Face of God (Morehouse, 2000), When Suffering Persists (Morehouse, 2001), in Italian translation: Sofferenza, All ricerca di una riposta (Torino: Claudiana, 2004), What God Wants for Your Life (Harper, 2005), Conversations with Scripture: Revelation (Morehouse, 2005), Conversations with Scripture: Luke (Morehouse, 2009), and The Dave Test (Abingdon, 2013). He and his wife, Natalie (who is also an academic and an Episcopal priest), live in Highland Park, Illinois, with their Gordon Setter, Hilda of Whitby. They have four children and four grandchildren: Henry, Addie, Heidi, and Sophie.


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