When Leonard Bernstein was conductor of the New York Philharmonic, he was asked by a reporter, “What is the most difficult instrument to play?” With a twinkle in his eye, he said, “Second fiddle.” Bernstein is quite right…second fiddle is THE most difficult instrument to play!

You’ve experienced the truth of Bernstein’s words if…

  • You grew up in a family where you had an older brother or sister who was perceived as the “blessed child.” Sometimes you had to play “second fiddle” and put your plans on hold so they could have the money to go to college, buy a tuxedo or a gown, or get their own car…before you!
  • You are a parent and you have put the needs of your children before your own needs. This is true for parents of infants, parents of teen-agers, and even for parents of “adult children.”
  • You have elderly parents and you have to make difficult decisions for them… as if they were your children. It is tough to switch roles!
  • You wrote a brilliant report for your work…but someone else got the credit.

Let’s be honest…it’s challenging to play Second Fiddle! Just ask John the Baptist. He was the second greatest second fiddle player in history. Many thought that John the Baptist was the Messiah. But, John knew that his role was to play second fiddle and to prepare the way for the Messiah. John played second fiddle without resentment or bitterness and without feeling sorry for himself. He modeled the essence of a second fiddle player when he said, “Jesus must increase…and I must decrease.” Those are words that every one of us must learn how to say. (Let that last sentence lean against you a little bit.)

The maestro, THE greatest second fiddle player of all time, was Jesus himself. Jesus played second fiddle and gave up the prerogatives of deity to become a human being, a sacrificial servant…and to die on the cross…for us. Every leader must play second fiddle if our leadership is to be truly effective. Our job as leaders is not to help other people think we are clever or brilliant. Nor is it to call attention to ourselves. Our job is to make the people around us better…to help them to blossom.
That is in the best interests of the organization or the ministry that we serve. We are on the face of the earth to serve God by serving others. If we will allow our life to be “played” by the maestro, Jesus Christ, we will discover that God will transform the music of our second fiddle into the most sublime music we have ever heard. In fact, when God plays second fiddle through us, others will hear the harmony of the orchestra of heaven.

Reflection Questions

  • In what relationship of your life is it necessary for you to play second fiddle right now?
  • What exactly does playing second fiddle look like for you?
  • What barriers do you have to overcome to play second fiddle without resentment?