It begins in here, not out there. –Robert K. Greenleaf
As I reflect upon this statement my mind quickly moves to what I call Greenleaf’s Legacy. For me, Greenleaf’s legacy contains three dimensions. These dimensions capture his life, his work and his philosophy. The three dimensions: Consciousness, Character & Conduct.
Another way of stating this: Being precedes Doing. ‘Who’ I am (Consciousness & Character) informs and forms ‘What’ I will choose to enact (Conduct) and Doing informs and reinforces Being.
Given this, Greenleaf’s statement makes sense to me. My conduct is rooted in and determined by my consciousness and character. In other words: Who I am will determine what I choose to do.
Greenleaf reminds us, over and over again in his writings, that we must be awake and aware. He also reminds us that awareness does not bring comfort or solace. I must be awake and aware of what formed and forms my ‘Character.’ Consider some of the following tap roots that feed and sustain my ‘Character.’ Here is a short list: my core values, my core guiding life principles, my core beliefs, my core assumptions, my prejudices, my stereotypes and my judgments.
When it comes to ‘Consciousness & Character’ Greenleaf ups the ante when he writes: To refuse to examine the assumptions one lives by is immoral. I up the ante for myself when I add: To refuse to examine the core values, core guiding life principles, etc. is immoral. I also know that during the times I choose to explore these – to be awake, aware, intentional and purpose-full in naming and exploring them – that I will not always be comforted by what I discern; at times I will be disturbed.
I have choice. This simple sentence is also, at times, disturbing. I can, for example, choose to respond and I can choose to react. Greenleaf counsels that we must prepare to appropriately respond and appropriately react without knowing what we will be preparing for. Again, Greenleaf, as is his wont, ups the ante when he tells us that the servant will choose to be unconditionally response-able and responsible for all of those served.
Greenleaf also reminds us that even when we are at our healthiest we are living paradoxes. We are, using his words, both good & evil. Others soften this a bit by saying we are both virtue & vice or that we are both light & darkness. A question I hold for myself: Do I really believe that I am capable of great good and that I am also capable of great evil? For me, in affirming that I am capable of both I find that it is easier for me to be more accepting of my humanity. I also find that I am more capable of empathy and compassion for the ‘other.’
I could write more as I reflect upon Greenleaf’s statement but this will have to suffice for now.
We become our thoughts. –Aristotle