Responsible people build; they do not destroy. They are moved by the heart. –Robert K. Greenleaf
Do those being served grow as persons: do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? And what is the effect on the least privileged in society; will she or he benefit, or, at least, not be further deprived? No one will knowingly be hurt by the action, directly or indirectly.
Do those being served grow as persons: do they, while being served, become healthier? Every time I read and hold this first question I quickly become whelmed over by the multitude of implications contained within it. Who are the ‘those’? What does it mean to ‘grow as persons’? What are the implications of the phrase ‘while being served’? What does it mean for one to ‘become healthier’? Is ‘Serving’ one-directional or multi-directional? There are others, but these will suffice for today. Let us briefly explore a few of these today.
Who are the ‘those’? In order to serve as Greenleaf defines ‘serve’ must I be awake and aware and intentional, purpose-full and focused. For example, must I form an intention to ‘serve’ or might I develop an ‘attitude’ of always striving to serve? [NOTE: As imperfect human beings we are ‘always striving’ – becoming more consistent is the goal, not becoming perfect which is a trap.] I embrace a ‘both-and’ approach. I strive to hold an ‘attitude of serving’ AND I strive to become intentional with my serving. Thus, my capacity to serve a wider group of ‘those’ dramatically increases.
What does it mean to ‘grow as persons’? It seems that in order to respond to this question we need to define ‘grow’ and ‘persons.’ Let us begin with ‘person’. A person is a human being. This helps but it is still, I believe, too general a concept – even too abstract. What do all human beings have in common? Consider, Gentle Reader, that we all have the following five dimensions in common: A Physical Dimension, an Intellectual Dimension, an Emotional Dimension, a Spirit(ual) Dimension and a Social Dimension (think: Relationship with self and with another). [NOTE: For some ‘spirit’ resonates and for others ‘spiritual’ resonates.]
We know that as human beings we do – and need to – grow in each of these AND that our growth is a life-long process. We also know that we can – and do – deplete each of these dimensions (we are, as noted earlier, imperfect human beings). Consider that the greatest violence done to us is ‘self-violence.’ Consider, also, that each of us has developed our favorite ways of depleting each of these five dimensions in ourselves. Add to the ‘self-violence/self-depletion, we also deplete these dimensions in others (we do violence to them via the depletion done).
Given our two definitions we can begin to see how we might respond to the question: What does it mean to ‘grow as persons’? Simply stated, it means that we strive to serve so that more nurturance than depletion occurs in one or more, if not in each, of the five dimensions. We serve ourselves, we serve others, we help others serve themselves and we are served by others so that I-You-We-They grow (are nurtured more than depleted) in each of these five dimensions.
Greenleaf focuses on individuals AND on two organized groups, Boards of Trustees and Institutions (a variety of them). As organic entities each embodies all five of these dimensions and hence each can be ‘served’. This is one of the ideas that still makes Greenleaf ‘counter-cultural’ today.
Well, Gentle Reader, it appears as if we have three more questions to respond to, for this first statement. So let us continue. . .
What are the implications of the phrase ‘while being served’?
What does it mean for one to ‘become healthier’?
Is ‘Serving’ one-directional or multi-directional?
Responsibility requires that a person think, speak and act as if personally accountable to all who may be affected by his or her words, thoughts and deeds…Awareness is important. –Robert K. Greenleaf