There’s a story, apparently true, about two men who escaped from a Siberian prison camp. As you probably know, it gets very cold there and outdoor travel isn’t a heartwarming experience. Not knowing their actual names, let’s call them Boris and Nikolai.
Boris was stronger than Nikolai, and eventually the weaker one started lagging behind. Rather than abandon his companion, Boris resolved to do everything he could to assist Nikolai as they continued toward hopeful freedom.
He would rigorously rub the other’s extremities to stave off frostbite. When the two stopped to rest, they huddled together to share bodily warmth. The one benefit of the severe cold was that prison officers soon gave up pursuit of the escapees.
Progress was slow, and at times the two were tempted to give up, but they persevered. Days later they crossed a border to safety.
Only later did Boris realize how his kindness toward the weaker friend had saved his own life as well. Working to keep Nikolai warm stimulated his own metabolism, enabling Boris to maintain a sufficient temperature so he, too, could survive.
One doesn’t need to become a fugitive in Siberia, however, to recognize the truth that two usually are superior to one. King Solomon made that assertion when he wrote, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work. If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm, but how can one keep warm along? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves…” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).
Solomon didn’t know Boris and Nikolai, but they certainly fit the description. We find this in many other endeavors. It’s a fact two can lift, or pull, more in tandem than they could independently. A gifted violinist may perform her part well, but surrounded by other talented musicians, the music will be much more impressive.
We see the “two is better than one” principle in most sports, whether it’s football, baseball, hockey, basketball, NASCAR or soccer. Even in golf or tennis, with individuals competing alone, we see the benefits of the player having been taught or coached by another person.
For years, I have invested hours nearly every week in mentoring and discipling other men. In our book, The Heart of Mentoring, my friend, the late David Stoddard, and I described mentoring as “a mutually beneficial relationship” in which both mentor and mentoring partner grow and learn from one another. In fact, The Heart of Mentoring would not have come about if Dave and I had not been working together with shared ideas and mission.
Through these mentoring relationships, repeatedly I’ve seen the truth of Proverbs 27:17 manifested: “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” I hope I’ve helped others to grow personally and spiritually, but I know I’ve grown during the process.
These days, our society seems so intent on exalting “self” and “me.” But there’s much to be said for remembering that if it weren’t for others, I couldn’t possibly become me – at least not the “me” that I have the potential for becoming.
I think that’s one reason God ordained marriage, stating “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him” (Genesis 2:18). In a similar way, although I have great respect for single parents, just as it takes two people to make a baby, it’s best for two to be involved in the demanding, never-ending challenge of parenting. “Many hands make light work,” the adage says.
Whether teaching a class, formulating a business proposal, managing finances, raising kids, or trying to grow spiritually, there’s usually strength in numbers. As the old song reminds us, “One is the loneliest number.”
Robert J. Tamasy is a veteran journalist, former newspaper editor and magazine editor. Bob has written hundreds of magazine articles, and authored, co-authored and edited more than 15 books. These include the newly re-published, “Business At Its Best,” “Tufting Legacies,” “The Heart of Mentoring,” and “Pursuing Life With a Shepherd’s Heart.” He edits a weekly business meditation, “Monday Manna,” which is translated into more than 20 languages and distributed via email around the world by CBMC International. To read more of Bob Tamasy’s writings, you can visit his blog, www.bobtamasy.blogspot.com, or his website (now being completed), www.bobtamasy-readywriterink.com. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.