The Synergy Problem

One of the more troublesome aspects of our conflict-ridden age is the breakdown of civility across a wide variety of lines. We see it in the breakdown of families in conflict between husbands and wives and parents and children. We see it in the breakdown of states between rulers and peoples and members of different political parties and worldviews. We see it in the trouble that sports leagues have in making peace between owners and players. We also see it in churches and other institutions in the struggle between those who rightly believe that the best of the past ought to be preserved and those who rightly believe that a better future requires past abuses to be addressed and vital changes to be made.

These problems are all interrelated, and they deal with the problem of synergy. Even though synergy is a newfangled word, a buzzword often used by corporate consultants and the authors of self-help books, the concept itself is a very ancient one. In fact, as synergy is the harmony between different perspectives that leads to the whole being greater than the sum of its parts (a distinctly Gestalt view), this concept has striking origins both in music (with its focus on wave dynamics) and alchemy, where the search for catalysts to spur key chemical reactions led to major chemistry developments, including the synergistic interaction of drugs (a very unpleasant manifestation of synergy).

These problems, though, have more than simply a physical reality, but reflect a deeper spiritual truth as well. God is Himself a complete unity, and when He created human beings His wholeness was divided into human beings who were each pieces of Him created with the longing to be whole. So God divided His nature and personality into males and females, wishing them to join together in marriage and experience the joy of that wholeness that godly intimacy brings. He divided His personality and perspective across generations, creating Nomads, Heroes, Artisans, and Prophets (the four generational types according to Howe & Strauss) whose wisdom together leads to a balanced society, a balance ever elusive because of the short span of human life and our bent towards folly. He divided His personality and gave different people different tendencies to be outer or inner directed, thinking or feeling, focused on sensory data or intuition, or people who preferred closure or openness to options (the four parts of the Myers-Briggs test). He divided his intelligences of verbal, logical-mathematic, kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and so on, and gave them to different people.

In all of these ways, and in many others, God took His wholeness and completeness and scattered His gifts to others. In 1 Corinthians 12 and 13, to name just one place, the Bible talks about God giving many gifts to others (see also Ephesians 4:1-8). But just as God gives many gifts to mankind, He expects all to seek to develop a balance within themselves as best as they are able, and to learn from the example of others and share in His work with others, so that we can work together to create a larger balance than any of us can find on our own. We are all to deal with each other in love, knowing that we are all created in His image and likeness and are worthy of love and respect.

It is tragic that those in our wicked times who preach for tolerance and understanding do not do so from a godly perspective but rather preach for tolerance of wickedness and error. For they preach a mixture of truth and error that is very pernicious. For we are to be resolutely strong against evil, whether it is in others or (especially) within ourselves. However, we are not to treat those who are merely different in personality or perspective as evil, for all of us have been given our perspective and our gifts for the good of the whole spiritual organism of which we are all a small part. Some of us are better at enjoyment, at making life fun (I’m not). Some of us are better at routines and preserving traditions. Others are better at comforting others and binding up their wounds, while others are better at flashes of great intellectual insight and wisdom. We need all of those gifts—and none of us possess them all, and so we need to work together so that every part of the body of Christ can be edified in love, and so that we all can realize that all who follow God have an honored and important role, not only a few grasping elites.

And it is this lack of respect for all that leads to problems. We seem to be losing, as a world, our ability to appreciate godly difference. Some people are in a haste to obliterate moral distinctions because of their inability to accept God’s righteous judgment on a wicked and rebellious world. Other people properly understand that some differences are worth fighting (and condemning) for, but fail to recognize that not all differences are of this type, and that some differences must be celebrated and appreciated. We simply have to be able to distinguish between those differences that make life better (the enjoyment and synergy we find from talking with others of unique perspectives and talents and experiences, but complementary ones springing from the same worldview and belief system), and those differences that spring from a difference in following God’s way or Satan’s way. We need to learn how to distinguish better.

So, how do we find this love and respect for others? How do we rebuild institutions like the family, businesses, or churches, as well as communities and nations, that are able to show genuine love and respect for all, striving for a balance where all can find their talents and perspectives put to productive use in building up rather than tearing each other down for simply seeing life differently? How do we appreciate the uniqueness of others as well as the unity of faith and belief and be able to distinguish between those God-given differences that make the world a better and more richly beautiful place and those differences that spring from sin? How much time do we have to accomplish this very difficult challenge? As so often is the case, I am full of questions, and bereft of answers. I only hope we have time enough, and will enough, and resources enough, to accomplish what we have been put on this earth to do.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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2 Responses to The Synergy Problem

  1. Cathy Martin says:

    We see through the glass darkly right now, but once we start using God’s Spirit more effectively and consistently for guidance and direction, our vision gets better. I’m only beginning to figure things out, but it’s having to literally separate the physical from the rest of the levels. That’s my personal house divided…which the Apostle Paul describes so well in Romans 7. Each person has to individually do this private inventory and THEN bring it to the table before we experience progress. But have no doubt, it will happen.

    • I understand that we all have to deal with our lives with God directly and personally. That said, it is vitally important to realize that our own personal struggles are part of a larger issue. The nature of the synergy problem is that what is a problem individually and personally is also a massive problem for society in general. The fact that the same issues are a problem for all parts of society in all walks of life means that at the base of our problems are a few core issues that, if solved, can lead to major improvements in a wide variety of situations.

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