Thinking in Harmony


As far back as I can remember, I’ve been a massive music fan–especially songs with rich, textured rhythm and harmonies. My young ears were captivated by the harmonies of Simon and Garfunkel, CSNY, The Beatles, The Byrds, and The Moody Blues, to name just a few. Over the years, my love for the layers of music only grew. Viscerally, I feel music—I don’t just hear it.

That is probably why I enjoy playing bass so much. A good bassline groove allows other instruments like pianos, guitars, strings, brass, woodwinds, and more to build upon its notes. Those of you with a keen ear know that even dissonant notes add texture to a great melody. Those seemingly “out-of-place notes” create musical tension, priming the ear to anticipate the kind of wholeness of tone when dissonance resolves back to sweet harmony.

To my surprise, I recently stumbled across the word “harmony” in I Peter 3:8. I’ve read this passage often, so I was surprised at how the word seemed to jump out at me. The verse reads, “To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit;” 1Pe 3:8 NASB. Intrigued, I checked the verse in a few other translations:

"Now, this is the goal: to live in harmony with one another and demonstrate affectionate love, sympathy, and kindness toward other believers. Let humility describe who you are as you dearly love one another." TPT.

"Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous;" NKJV.

My curiosity now at full throttle, I began to check the word translated “harmony” in the original text. Its origins are fascinating.

Strong’s Concordance says that the word is transliterated as Homophron, a compound word. It means “like-minded, that is, harmonious: - of one mind.” Intrigued, I began digging deeper into the word’s origins. Homo means “of the same kind.” Phron refers to the diaphragm—which the Greeks believed to be “the seat of all mental and emotional activity, including the mind, intellect, disposition, and feelings.”[1]

With this in mind, it seems Peter is asking us to be harmonious in how we think. So, while I may have a thought that comes from the heart of God, He may also use others to add a masterful blend of voices/thoughts/feelings to create magnificent harmony. Even dissonance, when resolved, creates a melody far richer and more beautiful than the original tune.

How can this work in leadership?

As leaders, we can offer the bassline, but we must also make room for harmony in our decision-making process. It’s unrealistic to have a firm idea, articulate it clearly, and then expect everyone to goose-step to your tune. Leaders do immense damage to themselves and others when they do not take input from others seriously. A “my way or the highway” composition sets us up to play God, stifle creativity, alienate others, and inevitably lead to poor decisions. Clearly articulating a solid idea and expecting instant conformity is the way of a tyrant—not a servant-leader of Jesus.

Conformity without harmony creates something called groupthink, which is a very well-studied phenomenon. Groupthink refers to a decision-making process in which loyalty to a leader or group becomes the guiding force for decision-making. Groupthink stresses conformity of thought and explicitly or implicitly silences other viewpoints or ideas. It is highly deceptive and typically leads to abysmal decisions.

Famous catastrophes related to groupthink are cited in “Diverse Perspectives on the Groupthink Theory—A Literary Review” by James D. Rose from Regent University. These include the disastrous Bay of Pigs Invasion, the failure to take the “O-Ring” problem seriously (leading to the space shuttle explosion), the escalation of the Vietnam War, and the belief that Japan would never attack Pearl Harbor.

As Christian leaders, we must listen to input that differs from our own to make solid decisions. It’s a mistake to assume that just because we “heard God, “we are the woman or man with the plan – and all others must join us in lockstep agreement. That’s the way of a dictator and has no place in God’s kingdom.

Instead, suppose we clearly articulate an idea and then allow the Holy Spirit to add harmony through the others on our team. Listening for harmony in their voices–even if it sounds dissonant to us at first–allows God to add rich texture and nuance to our plans as we move forward together. Through others, He can create a more full-throated score that reflects His mind, heart, and emotions beyond what we imagine.

Recently, I listened for harmony in a leadership meeting. We discussed an idea, and I asked the team to pray and listen to God’s heart about the matter before we met. When we gathered, many people had strong opinions. Some disagreed strongly—most concerning timing. But, by listening to the input from everyone, we came to a consensus about how to move forward while incorporating some excellent ideas. It’s incredible to watch God’s people create harmony even when they don’t realize that is what they are doing.

Drop a bassline in your leadership soon and enjoy listening to the harmonies God builds as you collaborate with others on your team.  

[1] The Complete Word Study Dictionary, © 1992 By AMG International, Inc. Chattanooga, TN 37422, U.S.A., Revised edition, 1993

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  • Beautiful and inspiring and the reason for any success I have ever experienced. Thank you Ed!

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