Playing Second Fiddle in the Relationship
Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990) directed the New York Philharmonic from 1958-1969. He led more concerts with the orchestra than any previous conductor. It is reputed that when asked what is the hardest instrument to play, he answered:
“Second fiddle. I can always get plenty of first violinists, but to find one who plays second violin with as much enthusiasm . . . now that’s the problem. And yet if no on plays second, we have no harmony.”
The importance of the second fiddler is also true in a relationship which we can imagine to be an orchestra of two.
No Second, No Harmony
Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. . . Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.— Romans 12:9, 10
Second fiddle, the idiom, which refers to someone in a supportive rather than a primary role, originated in the music world. The term spread throughout the orchestra to include the second horn and the second flute; and even outside to the business world where subordinate is the synonym for second fiddle. However, in the love or friendship relationship, as suggested in the verse above, the partners consider each other as equals.
The Relationship Orchestra
Both first and second fiddle roles are necessary in the relationship; and the harmony between the players is more important than the personal roles they play.
The harmony is for their enjoyment and the enjoyment of those who care about them. Their union is viewed as two-in-one without any analysis of who has more talent, who makes more money, or who makes the bigger contribution to the marriage.
The Jamieson, Faussett, and Browne Bible Commentary, explains it. Each person takes the lead in outdoing the other in affection.
The other Scripture versions besides the Message, render the concept as “honoring” or “preferring” one another. So, the person in second fiddle position sincerely wants the other person to succeed in the lead role.
The supporter may express his or her support this way:
- “I am the most effective, reliable, empowering partner he will ever have.”
- “I am committed to helping her perform at her best.”
- “Love . . . Isn’t always me first” (1 Corinthians 13:5 MSG).
Skilled Players Take Turn
It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit. - Harry Truman.
“Second violinists are first-class musicians,” read the Los Angeles Times headline on May 17, 2009. In the article, Glenn Dicterow, current concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic stated, “Our string sections have rotation, so all second violinists actually end up playing in the firsts at some point during every season.”
Dan Nobuhiko Smiley also affirmed, "Playing second fiddle may connote being second best, but the preparation for playing first or second violin is exactly the same.”
In the relationship, playing second fiddle is as much a desire and a privilege as playing first. Each partner recognizes the value of the secondary role.
For example, when one heads up a project, the other values the opportunity to be the neck that turns the head. The supporter is as significant as the leader will ever be. It is important that the person in the lead position lead with humility and consideration; and it is also important that the second fiddle serves with the same enthusiasm as he or she did in the lead role. It is all about harmony in the household, in the work team, between friends or wherever the success of one becomes the success of all.
If someone finds this concept impractical, here’s the reason. “It is only those whom the love of Christ constrains to live not unto themselves, who are capable of thoroughly acting in the spirit of this precept” (Commentary).
Playing and enjoying the second fiddle in the relationship orchestra is a necessity. It may not come naturally, but by practice and more practice. What good is the relationship without the harmony?
“May God . . . help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus.” Romans 15: 5 (NLT)
Master Conductor, we are grateful for the opportunity to play our various roles in life’s orchestra. We realize that You value our contribution in the second position or in the back row, just as much as when You let us play the lead. Help us to love selflessly and enthusiastically no matter in what position You place us. Bless our relationships with Your love, peace and harmony always. We pray with thanksgiving in the name of Jesus. Amen