Reflection on the Light and Darkness of the Servant

Greenleaf wrote, “The forces for good and evil in the world are propelled by the thoughts, attitudes, and action of individual beings.”  I have come to believe that being aware of our own physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual needs as servants may be crucial to spreading more good or light and less evil or darkness.  By choosing to focus on the servant theme, we look at the “best test” and attempt to discern how we are nurturing positive, healthy development in ourselves, our relationships, our organizations, and our society.

It is, I think, more challenging for us to be aware of and acknowledge our inner capacity to be destructive and do harm.  It is easy to fool ourselves into thinking that we are moral beings (perhaps morally superior beings) and that we should strive for perfection instead of integration and consistency.

Much harm has been done by leaders who refuse to seek to be increasingly aware of the wounds they have received and the wounds they have delivered and, hence, for their need to seek forgiveness, healing and reconciliation.  I think Greenleaf would agree.

He tells a story in his 1973 talk to the National Council of Catholic Laity about twelve ministers and theologians from various faith traditions coming together with twelve psychiatrists of all faiths for a two day seminar on the theme of healing. Among other questions, the gathered group explored the question, “Why are we in this business [of healing]?”  Greenleaf says that they all agreed after ten minutes of intense conversation that they are in the business for their own healing, in other words, to make themselves whole.  “Perhaps,” Greenleaf says, “as with the minister and the doctor, the servant-leader might also acknowledge that his own healing is his motivation.” 

Greenleaf wrote that that “it is terribly important that one know, both about himself and about others, whether or not the net effect of one’s influence on others enriches, is neutral or diminishes and depletes.”  None of us are all ‘good-servants’ all of the time.  We don’t live into servanthood perfectly, nor can we.  Serving, Greenleaf reminds us, is potentially immoral. As human beings we all contain both the seeds-potential, for light and darkness (Greenleaf uses the terms ‘Good and Evil’).

Greenleaf emphasizes over and over that ‘awareness is important.’  The more awareness we have the more choices we have.  Gentle reader, I invite you to take some time and reflect upon one or more of the following questions, they might help you become more aware and thus provide you with more choice.

Questions for Reflection:

What are some of the seeds of light that you have sown?  What are some of the seeds of light that you ‘should’ have sown but chose not to sow?  How has your presence/your way of being enriched or nurtured someone else? What are some of the ways that you have nurtured yourself (consider five dimensions that together help define who we are and that we are called to nurture each of them; here are the five dimensions: Physical, Intellectual, Emotional, Spiritual and Social-Relational)?

 What are some of the seeds of darkness that you have sown?  How has your presence/your way of being diminished or depleted someone else?  What are some of the ways that you have done violence to yourself (again, consider the ways you deplete – do self-violence to – each of the five dimensions)?

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