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Leadership and Unconscious Violence

Posted on November 22nd, 2010

Without an unswerving commitment to our own inner journey as leaders, it is inevitable that we will inflict unconscious violence on others. “If we skimp on our inner work, our outer work will suffer as well” (Parker Palmer). When I take the necessary time to do my own inner work, I am much more patient. I am able to wait for people to grow in their own way according to God’s timetable. I am able to wait for insights to germinate and blossom before teaching them to others.  I am able to wait before making decisions or setting goals prematurely (even if it does frustrate those around me).  I am able to resist the temptation to save or fix people, to want to coerce them into meeting my own needs. Leadership is a dangerous place if we are not reflective. In our busyness and overscheduled lives, we can inflict a subtle violence on others by not seeing them as persons, by pushing them in ways that violate God’s work in them. We are God’s beloved sons and daughters. That is the core of our identity, our existence. The demonic voices that tell us we are what we do, what we have, or what others think scream loudly to us. These voices pull us to themselves in powerful ways within the Western church today.  They remain disguised as God’s work in our faulty thinking. I agree with the ancient writers of the past that our success’ have little to teach us. They do not connect us to ourselves, others and God. God uses our failures and imperfections to root us, to ensure we are gentle with the souls of other people. So take a few minutes with me to ponder Leonard Cohen‘s wonderful chorus from Anthem, that you and I might love in a way that makes the souls of those around us feel safe and protected:

Ring the bells that still can ring Forget your perfect offering There is a crack in everything That is how the light gets in.

In what additional ways might we unconsciously do violence to others in our effort to serve them as leaders?

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