My Stephen Covey 7 Habits series reaches Habit 6 today: Synergize!

I would say it’s one of my favorites in Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, but it’s so closely connected to Habits Four and Five that it’s nearly impossible to separate them. And besides, I already said Habit Four “Think Win-Win” was my favorite.  You can read my tribute to Covey here, but it’s just hard not to like anything where the whole equals so much more than the sum of its parts.

2 +2 = 4 Addition. It’s how many people think.

2 – 2 = 0 Subtraction. That’s how most people think.

2 x 4 = 8 Multiplication. That’s how Covey thought. He described Habit 6: Synergize in this way in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families:

Synergy is the summum bonum — the supreme or higfhest fruit — of all habits. It’s the magic that happens when one plus one equals three — or more. And it happens because the relationship between the parts is a part itself….That’s where the creative mind is — the new mind that produces the new option, the third alternative.

The urge to achieve synergy builds on the mindset to think win-win, followed by the desire first to understand, then to be understood. Only in that sequence can our most creative energy be excercised to its fullest.

Sounds great. But is it Biblical? 

Consider a few examples from Scripture. Examples, mind you. Not proof texts. When dealing with ideas as sophisticated as this — said without apology if perceived as elitist — we should expect to find complex support from a God who is both infinitely simple and infinitely complex:

  • Marriage. Scripture teaches that in marriage 1+ 1 = something greater than 2. It uses the language of the two becoming one, but the concluding “one”  is far greater than either person alone or even than the simple sum of the two together. It’s an altogether new “one” and certainly greater than the sum of its parts. Through its legacy impact, a godly marriage can be a force multiplier for countless generations. Think Jonathan and Edwards.

According to one source, the 929 descendents of Jonathan Edwards included 13 college presidents, 86 college professors, 430 ministers, 314 war veterans, 75 authors, 100 lawyers, 30 judges, 66 physicians, and 80 holders of public office, including three U.S. Senators, seven congressman, mayors of three large cities, governors of three states, a Vice-President of the United States, and a controller of the United States Treasury. Maybe they got a few wrong, but that still,leaves a whole lot of impact.

  • Christ and each of us. We see this dynamic unfold on an individual basis as Christ + each of us = something that glorifies God in a way neither one alone ever could. Consider Peter. I’d rather do that than consider me, if you don’t mind.  Clearly Peter was a struggling — though intensely sincere — fellow with limited people skills. But fully surrendered and empowered by the Spirit, he became the perfect spokesperson to the Jewish believers of the early church. That’s not to say that we deserve the praise for any of it. Paul also fits paradigm as he became the perfect apostle to the Gentiles as God leveraged his intellectual prowess to lay the theological foundation for the Church.
  • The Church. Little needs to be said here except to note that the Bible speaks often of how each of us has a unique role to make the body a force that the gates of Hell cannot stand against. Let’s face it. On our own, we wouldn’t think of taking that on. But togethr, empowered by the Spirit — how can we not do that?!
  • The Trinity. Let’s not forget the most glaring example of synergy in the universe — God Himself. His very nature as a triune being cries out for the essential place of synergy in His universe. Although each member of the Godhead is fully divine and a distinct person, yet He would cease to be God if the three were not in unity as one essence. The splendor of the Triune majesty truly shines through the synergy of the three uniting to show His glory in manner that, quite frankly, boggles our feeble minds.

I believe we were created to most fully reflect God’s image in us when we achieve synergy in relationship with others. God’s greatest works will only be achieved when we most closely model His own synergistic nature. It will only happen when we lay down what we want in order to truly understand others and seek a synergy that lifts us higher than we could have gone alone — a little closer to the throne of God.

What dreams do you have that the right synergy might make possible? Share your aspirations with a comment here. Let’s see if we can’t help each other take a step out of the boat.

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