There is a song that I used to love to sing during Mass, called “Be not Afraid” by Robert Dufford, a Jesuit. The refrain goes: “Be not afraid, I go before you always, come follow me and I will give you rest.” It is a reminder to me that throughout the whole of the Old and New Testament, the message is clear; God is always with us and will pave the way forward, regardless of the circumstances. It’s a difficult concept to embrace in these troubled times, given a pandemic, climate catastrophes and political upheaval (all the products of accumulative human free will and not God’s punishment, by the way). And yet, for me anyways, it is the most essential quality of any great leader that fear is never the guiding principle for any action and that the trust, hope and faith in the ideals and principles one stands for run so deep that nothing will impede their progression forward in bringing them to light. A leader must be the voice that rises above fear, and reminds us of who we are and what we stand for. A leader must not be swayed by the darkness that threatens us but be that hopeful voice that challenges us to stop hiding our light under a bushel basket and to uncover it for all to see and shine so bright the darkness cannot and will never win. They must remind us that we are not alone, and that together, with our combined light and talent (and for people of faith the presence of God) will guide us all to a better place.
I’ll end this short post with one of my favorite lines from scripture from the first letter of John in which we are reminded that love is the opposite of fear:
There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love. We love because God first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” but hates their brother or sister, they are a liar; for whoever does not love a brother or sister whom they have seen cannot love God whom they have not seen. This is the commandment we have from God: whoever loves God must also love his brother or sister.
While it may appear that I’m being swept away by alliterations, I think that this is the most apropos way to end my discussion on leadership and lies. Think for a moment, why would anyone remain loyal, pledge their fidelity to a leader who lies to them? There are many of us who have given our fealty to people who didn’t deserve it, whether it is due to ignorance, willful or not, fear of violence, retribution or loss, perpetuating an environment that supports our own personal illusions, or because stepping away they would lose any advantage they believe they might have as a result of an association with them. I completely understand there are a myriad of reasons why people do what they do, but this isn’t about that, this is about not wanting to remain loyal to a liar. If you don’t care, move on…but if you want to grow and evolve, it would seem to make sense that any loyalties you have should grow and evolve too. This is about analyzing and letting go of loyalties that are just not good for you anymore…and while it should go without saying, the first step is to recognize and acknowledge when you are being lied to.
While I can’t comment on anyone else’s reasons for choosing who to be loyal to, I can tell you the reasons I choose. I remember a long time ago when discussing codependency, I was challenged to look into those relationships that had, but did not deserve my loyalty. Initially, standing on my “strong woman” platform my gut reaction was that that my circle was not huge and that everyone in it was already worthy of my loyalty and I theirs. I thought it would be an easy task and like many of my initial conclusions, I was so wrong. Instead of seeing who certain people really were, I saw them as who I needed them, or wanted them to be much of the time. Without going into detail, I had to decide what criteria was necessary for me to choose who to be loyal to, and secondly, based on that criteria, did the people already in my circle deserve it. And finally, was I deserving of their loyalty too, it is a two-way street after all.
My first criteria is the foundation for any and all of my deep connections I have in my life, any loyalty has to be founded in truth. Liars, carnival barkers and gas lighters need not apply. I had to evaluate whether my associations worked to my detriment or to my sustenance and growth. Did I like who I was as a result of this association, did it bring out or stifle my potential, or did it bring out my better angels and in turn, did I bring out the best in that association as well. It was and still continues to be a long and harrowing journey, because some of the constructs and people I held onto for dear life, began to dissolve before my very eyes when they didn’t hold truth anymore, and the road ahead became more ambiguous and challenging without those comforting landmarks that no longer gave me confidence and hope. I have learned that while life’s journey is filled with many people, most moving beautifully in and then out of ours lives, more often than not our personal journey is a solitary one. And after awhile, I felt comfortable seeing my sojourns as solitary ones, even in the presence, direction and companionship of any leader I choose to follow along the way. Ultimately, where I end up at the end of my life is on me. I feel as if I can see, hear, feel and understand God much better once I stopped trying to see, hear and feel God through someone else’s construct. I think that is why I have such a visceral reaction to those lying liars who lie. Loyalty to these types of leaders is inviolate, never to be questioned or challenged, and more times than not is not reciprocal.
My second criteria is responsibility. Any leader who blames everyone else for their problems, or scapegoats other groups when they get caught up in a lie, making a mistake, or acting in a way that is contrary to what they say they believe, is unworthy of my loyalty. Leaders, regardless of their effectiveness make mistakes…period. If they admit them, take responsibility for them, and learn from them, it is a sure sign that they may indeed deserve my loyalty. The phrase “the buck stops here” has so much more meaning to me now, given the state of blamers our there. I am firmly of the “those who have not sinned throw the first stone” kind of attitude when it comes to responsibility. When a leader understands that they are not infallible, I think they work harder to get it right.
My third criteria is courage. It takes courage to stand in the forefront, share your vision and ask people to follow you even when you may make mistakes, even when you tell them the road may be hard, and there will be challenges and sacrifices along the way but that a renewed commitment to those fundamental building blocks, and axioms that hold us together as a group will set our path toward success. It takes courage to say that one leader doesn’t have all the answers and that we all need to work together and use our individaul gifts collectively. It also takes courage to make choices that help foster unity and not divisiveness, regardless of how hard it is. As the apostle Paul said so eloquently:
But as it is, there are many parts, yet one body.
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I do not need you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I do not need you.”
Indeed, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are all the more necessary,
and those parts of the body that we consider less honorable we surround with greater honor, and our less presentable parts are treated with greater propriety,
whereas our more presentable parts do not need this. But God has so constructed the body as to give greater honor to a part that is without it,
so that there may be no division in the body, but that the parts may have the same concern for one another.
If (one) part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy.
So all of you leaders out there who have deemed me as inconsequential and unnecessary, or anyone else who you blame for the word’s ills because you are too cowardly to take responsibility for your own actions…you will never have loyalty from me.
An argument is logical and valid, only if the truth of the conclusion is based on the truth of each premise supporting that conclusion, if not, the argument is unsound, illogical and invalid. Make sense, right? You can’t base a method of leadership on lies and untruths. Any future purpose becomes illogical and invalid and possibly dangerous. I don’t know why that idea is so hard for people to wrap their heads around. And while we are all flawed and sometimes fall for arguments that are questionable and then create intricate methods sometimes of creating validity where there is none, whether it is questioning the foundation of a relationship or ideology, it doesn’t make our behavior any less dishonest or illogical because we double down on the illusion or a premise we want to be true. So if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck and behaves like a duck, perhaps the logic flows forward that there is a great chance it is a duck. That is the simplicity of logic
I think its important in this day and age where truth becomes suspect when leaders tell us: that if it walks, sounds and acts like a duck, it is really entirely something different, and if you really were a good person you would jump on board with that otherwise you are the one with the problem…its even more important to challenge these lies. Why is it when there is clear evidence to the contrary that a premise is untrue, the usual response is more akin to gas-lighting (like the phrase we used as kids…”no you are”) and the allegations are blown off as a hoax, or mechanism of evil, or the most dangerous: the actual definition of what a duck walks, sounds and looks like is completely changed to contradict the evidence of its untruthfulness? For example, when evidence is brought forth in our legal system (the checks and balances AMERICA is known for), it seems perilous to vilify the very system people have built, fought and died for almost 250 years rather than hold to account what the evidence says about a particular person accused. Even having said that, this country includes even more checks and balances to effect how the legal system works via our legislature, because truth and logic are so important to our structure of government.
I don’t want to move too deeply into my bias, but COME ON people! It doesn’t take a genius to figure out if any particular leader’s messages are truthful or not…you do have to use your eyes and ears and cognitive thinking to determine the veracity of what they are posturing. It does take a little effort to move from premise to premise and determine whether or not they are logically sound…but not impossible. Before I choose to follow anyone, I am obligated to use my due diligence to find the truth. It’s also true that you can follow anyone you like…but it will never be logical if what they are saying isn’t true. Like Pat Moynihan famously said: “You are entitled to your own opinion, but you can’t have your own facts”
As for my spiritual take on it…Jesus said that the truth will set you free, not your opinions…
This particular issue is going to take multiple posts. First, I don’t think its helpful to call people liars because I don’t think it does anything except further polarize us. However, lies exist everywhere, from simply lying about the size of whatever, be it your brain or your bank account, the amount you drank during quarantine, lies about relationships, to lies about elections and race and gender. Whether it is just telling someone what they want to hear even though you believe the opposite to avoid conflict or judgement, or the many lies we tell ourselves and the people we choose to be around to the help us sustain those lies to keep up the illusion of being other that who we really are, we all live in a culture that is far from truthful. If you can’t see yourself in any of the above examples, then I absolutely don’t know what to say to you except you are in a vulnerable place that the lying liars who lie have a special ability to pick up on, and you best be careful what band wagon you jump on.
I think its human to rationalize away our faults, weaknesses, fears etc. but I also know you can’t evolve if you spend all your energy doing so. My father taught me that in order to grow and evolve, you must continually challenge yourself and the beliefs you hold dear, to see if they still remain a reflection of who you are and what you stand for. As I’ve started this blogging journey with God, I have learned to recognize those who rationalize their way out of and refuse to change and adapt by finding someone or something else to blame or choosing institutions that allow you to believe that you have a leg up on everyone else. It isn’t enough anymore to simply say that everyone does it, or the little white lies we hide behind are no big deal…because they obfuscate the simple truths that are supposed to push us through those illusory patterns, better enabling us to recognize these deceptions and weaknesses in the future. This isn’t a push to walk around emotionally exposed, it is a push to see with your own eyes those truths that help you evolve and face your weaknesses, fears and darker side. Jesus always said that the truth will set you free, and I, for one, take him at his word. The greatest threat of leadership today are those leaders who represent and feed on the lies that perpetuate a false narrative of control, righteousness, and privilege above others who are different. These are the kind of leaders who convince you that anyone who doesn’t support them doesn’t deserve the same abundance of what the world offers their followers. They do it by undermining those champions of light who try and shed light on the lies they tell to keep people in a deep state of fear. It’s happened over and over throughout history. Let’s not let it happen again.
Goodness isn’t relative to the happy thoughts you have and just a desire to be a work in progress…it is relative to the effort you put forth to be that tree that bears only good fruit that Jesus talks about. It is relative to your ability to allow the truths that are present to remove the illusions we cover ourselves with. Truth knows that the best of who you are doesn’t need all those coverings and trappings that the liars who lie tell you that you need. Facing your own truths better enable each of us to choose those leaders who not only do the same, but will ensure that we all become trees that bear good fruit.
In the first book of Kings in the Old Testament there is a story I love when the Lord speaks to Elijah who is in crisis, and tells him to stand outside a cave where he will be passing by. The Lord is not in wind rending the mountains and crushing the rocks, it was not in the earthquake, or next a great fire that pass Elijah by. The Lord was in a whisper that Elijah had to be still to hear. I love that story, because it goes to the heart of the matter of God’s influence. When we shut down the chatter and move away from the noxious drama and all the noise…we will be in a better position to hear God, that is if we really want to hear what God has to say. Listening, while not as flashy as some of the other qualities of a great leader, is, for me anyway, the most essential quality. How can you lead anyone if you can’t hear their pain, their fears, their concerns, their hopes, their passions about the journey ahead? The role of a leader, contrary to many of those who presently act in leadership positions, is not to forge ahead with their own agenda, with everyone else be damned. It is to do what is in the best interest of those who are following you. That being said, the listening only comes after your commitment to what it is you stand for and proclaim, because I guarantee, in the listening process that follows, there will be those who will try to convince you to sway from those ideals to pursue an agenda that will not benefit the whole.
I know I’ve used this before, but in the the first book of Corinthians in the New Testament, Paul creates an apt analogy of the Church being the Body of Christ, with all the many members having different functions to sustain the body, and those differences should be celebrated, because it is their interdependence that allows the Body to fully function. Knowing that in any hierarchy there is a tendency to give greater power to those members that seem more honorable like a foot or hand, and less power to those more unseemly parts, Paul would have none of that and he states logically, if all parts were the same where would the body be? He declares if one part suffers, all parts should suffer, if one part is honored, all parts should share it’s joy. What a beautiful image, right? Sadly it is one where we have failed miserably…and perhaps it is because no one has taken time to listen to the parts of the body that suffer, or to listen to God in the whispers to tell us what to do.
I seem to be in tears a lot these days…a reflection of a developed sense of empathy and artistry, I hope. I hear the pain of those parts of the body of our country, and the scramble of those who try to convince us the pain isn’t real, or those who would damage the rest of the body just so they will listen. So lets all be better at listening, for a start, before we write off a part of this body that isn’t like “our part”. None of us can function if can’t work together and see the value of each gift an individual brings that will keep this body functioning. It need not start from the top down, it just needs to be a reflection of who we are and what we stand for.
Before determining a path forward and to whom or what you pledge your allegiance moving into the future, you must determine, as I stated in my last post, what you are going to stand for (please note that I am perfectly aware that there are many people who move into the future without any regard or thought to what or whom they believe in…but since this is about leadership, good leadership, I will focus on those who do). The next step, in my opinion, is to figure out the method and means you use to actually move forward. And I think it must be said, since believing something is too obvious to state in the past has bit me in the ass, that movement forward has to be a reflection of what you stand for. If it’s not, then you need to rethink what it is you actually stand for. This is really important to me when making a determination of who is fit for any position of leadership.
Any true leader must represent and move in a way that supports those ideals they proclaim as their foundation and motivation. Let me give you an example, and I’m using this particular instance because of the visceral reaction I had to it when I saw the events that occurred on January 6th, 2021. On this sad day in history, insurrectionists broke into the capitol to obstruct the constitutional obligation of the Congress to certify the November election in an attempt to thwart the peaceful transition of power. Regardless of your opinion on the election, what occurred afterward could never be described as anything but unlawful. Those who who broke into the capital, grabbed hands in the house chamber and prayed in the name of Christ claiming after all the violence, vitriol and destruction that somehow God endorsed this behavior and anyone who opposed them were not, in fact, true Christians. The president was silent, but the wasn’t what hit me because I had grown numb to his behavior. What bothered me to my core was watching the insurrectionists pray in the name of Christ claiming his blessings on their behavior. I wasn’t bothered that members of the insurrection prayed, but that they conflated their faith, and the “means” of their stated principle as one and the same and justified the violence they brought. Love is not political. Believe what you believe, but it is never appropriate to use your belief as an endorsement from God for personal politics. Saying you are doing something for God, doesn’t make that true, because none of us know the mind of God. Acting under the auspices of faith to justify bad behavior contravenes the very axioms that faith requires of us. If I act in a way I believe God wants me to, I had better be ready and able to, one: root that behavior in the totality of those teachings and message of that faith (because even Satan can use scripture for nefarious purposes) and two:accept the consequences of that behavior as my own and not blame anyone else. I’ve long been frustrated by those who utilize faith as an imprimatur on their actions…as if making a statement that you are a Christian is license for any and all behavior that flows from that oath. This kind of inconsistency is one of the main reasons that I have put aside traditional means and structures that organized religion uses to celebrate and witness to Christ’s great gift and sacrifice. I’ve been witness and victim to too much corruption all in the name of God. As a caveat, this is not an indictment of those who embrace traditional structures and leaders and still adhere to what Christianity stands for. There is a growing movement, however, that is dangerously derailing the Gospel message: one that is rooted in love, respect for those lesser than, mercy, justice and peace, into endorsement of a political ideology. For all intents and purposes it is becoming what Jesus warned us about, the proverbial wolf in sheep’s clothing.
While I studied Theology, I spent a great deal of time both academically and experientially to find ways to move within my belief system that reflected that very belief system. Over many decades, I had to alter and change my path and leaders depending on the multitude of my own mistakes, revelations, evolution and transformation. I don’t claim to be exceptional by any means…but I did ask for and expect direction from God, which I believe I received. In truth, God dismantled me and rebuilt me into something else. I took the parable of the talents to heart and tried to bear fruit from God’s multitude of resources. More importantly when you are willing to have eyes to see and ears to hear, even when the glory of God is an indictment against old restrictive behaviors, you have to be willing to change, and often that’s the hardest part. All our paths are different, our personal gifts vast, but any journey, even one that includes following someone else, must be a reflection of what you stand for. There is always room for diversity, but my path forward should never be an obstruction to anyone else’s, especially in the name of God.
Yes, it’s already March and I’ve yet to post, but there was much wading through necessary existential crap to be done before I could see a starting point. I could write a multitude of papers on the essential qualities of a good leader, histories of great leaders, the measurement and impact of evolutionary roads forward like I did in grad school…but I don’t think that is what this year is about. Considering the climate of the present time, and the depth of anger, misinformation and lack of any true critical thinking of the masses, I think even the second coming of Christ would have difficulty being seen as anything but another rabble rousing anti-(insert appropriate noun) dissident. And if you react adversely to the last statement, ask yourself this: how easy is it for you to lap up that latest sound bites against people or movements you hate…yah, not much use of critical thinking there.
So, it is incumbent upon all of us, I believe, to create an environment where good leaders, in whatever capacity, can succeed. What we don’t need are those kinds of leaders who divide, create fear, lie, disseminate misinformation, and encourage isolationism, all for their own power and gain. You know, the kind that creates such a frenzy of political and vitriolic illusory dust that we can’t even see straight as to who or what we are following. So, what this year will be about for me is settling the dust of anger, hate, and just bad information so we can see clearly enough to follow leaders out there who best represent what we stand for. Let me add a small caveat: what we stand for, is not the same as what we stand against. Standing against something as a primary motivation is too easy for someone with less than altruistic ideals to manipulate the anger that lies within us all who feel harmed in some way into creating the kind of mob mentality that is the source of much of the destruction we’ve seen over the last months. Let the anger we feel from injustice, help us understand and clarify what exactly it is we actually stand for, and find a way forward that is a larger reflection of those ideals. And if what you stand for is destruction and the preservation of your own self interest…you will be in my thoughts and prayers.
For me, the anger I’ve experienced since I’ve started this blog, is the disregard for truth, the hubris of the privileged few, the lack of informed civility in debate and information sharing, the tendency to scapegoat others and avoid personal responsibility, racism and the corruption of Christianity which is the source and soul of my entire existence. So that means, for me anyway, that I stand for: truth, the pursuit of happiness for all, the work that goes with being truly informed and using common decency and civility to share that information, taking responsibility for my own failings and make the necessary changes instead of blaming others, extend a listening ear and commitment to fight against the forces that unfairly marginalized people of color, ethnicity, religion and sexuality, and to declare and model with love all that my faith requires of me. I’m sure there will be more in the coming year, but I’ll start with those for now. Let me finish then with this question:…what is it that you stand for?
I know, its February. And it wasn’t because I wasn’t sure what to write about. This year’s theme came early…even before the insurrection at the Capital…so I’ve spiritually hid in a corner for a month. What. An. Evolutionary. Crisis. I can’t even claim simple ignorance about my theme this year…I have a Master’s Degree in it. I’m not bragging, seriously, I am not. I am in a wishing I was ignorant so I can be blissful and spend this year happily learning but instead am having heart stopping moments of reckoning because knowing what I know I should have seen this coming and now I have to say stuff about it. And as much as I loved studying leadership and all the nuances of what kinds of qualities are important to any modern leader, I never particularly had any interest in leading anybody anywhere…and I still don’t. I’ve also never in my wildest dreams anticipated a world in this kind of crisis. In the worst of times I could foresee a world taken over by greedy and powerful men, or at its best foresee a world motivated and directed by ethical and insightful strong women (its my imagination so deal with it). I don’t think there is any dystopian future that I could have imagined that would be based on some of the most bizarre and baseless conspiracy theories invented by who knows who and perpetuated by the once leader of the free world. As incomprehensible as that is to me, calling the millions of people out who believe this shit must be done in a careful and calculated manner. Now, I absolutely get calling these theories “shit” is neither careful or calculated, but think of it as the initial rip off of that proverbial band aid of delusion to get their attention. These theories are “mendacious junk” (from the mouth of a particularly loquacious journalist with whom I share an imaginary verbal love affair) and must be disassembled immediately. If you are offended, I’ll take your derision with open arms because you are being led down a dark path of doom where truth doesn’t matter and fear and gossip rule and could possibly be the spark that causes the apocalypse. I can’t and won’t stand for that, I just won’t. Disagree on ideology, that’s fine but if you are as shocked and appalled as I am at what is going on with all these conspiracy theories its time to pull up our big girl/boy pants and deal.
I have always believed that the world could face any crisis through dynamic, informed leadership. I think it still can, but it is going to be a long and winding road. I’ve always also believed that faith in whatever higher power you embrace would also call forth those inspired individuals necessary to combat any crisis, I call them children of the light and I pray for them every day. But, and this is a big but, not without a good house cleaning (or exorcism…I haven’t decided which word is more appropriate yet) for both our country and church (which sadly is fueling much of pooh flying around). This year is a game changer. Too many fools out there are claiming they know the mind of God to justify their duplicitous plots, they are the thieves in wolve’s clothing that Jesus spoke about. So here begins a year of building a leader (and it is NOT me), and it begins with truth, and principled ideas and solutions that are not exclusive or restrictive.