Greenleaf writes: Serving is not popular because it is exacting and hard to attain. But it is highly rewarding and fulfilling when it is done well. The society-building voices that advocate it and are contending to be heard are speaking with more caution. They have more respect for the integrity of those who might hear, and consequently they are more difficult to hear. But they must be heard, because only they hold out the adventurous pursuit of a dream as the path to wholeness. Criticism has its place; but as a total preoccupation it is sterile. If, in a time of crisis, too many potential builders are taken in by a complete absorption with dissecting the wrong and by a zeal for instant perfection, then the future of this civilization is dark indeed.
Why is ‘serving exacting and hard to attain’? We have an insight into why it is ‘exacting’ when we spend time attempting to live into and out of Greenleaf’s ‘Best Test’ for the servant. It is ‘hard to attain’ because those who were born ‘natural servants’ still have to commit to the discipline required in order to develop their servant-nature. For those who were not born ‘natural servants’ they would have to commit to a rigorous path in order to become servants by ‘second-nature.’ Whether one is a ‘natural born servant’ or whether one chooses to become a ‘second-nature servant’ both paths are difficult to attain.
Greenleaf’s third and fourth sentences remind us that the servant will not be shouting from the roof tops. The servant will speak with caution. The servant’s goal will strive not to coerce nor manipulate but will strive to persuade and influence. The servant desires the one served to freely choose to become a servant, to emotionally-own the commitment to do so – coercion and manipulation will not help here. Because the servant respects the integrity of those served the servant will also, more than likely, speak in whispers – ‘let he or she who has ears choose to listen.’ The servant understands that the one served must choose and ‘loud voices’ tend to imply pressure or coercion or manipulation and these hinder, if not directly block, ‘free choice.’
Greenleaf also reminds us that the servant ‘must be heard’ (a paradox when coupled with a soft-voice). Why? Because the servant is committed to the ‘pursuit of a dream’ – not ‘any’ dream but a ‘big dream.’ And not any ‘big dream’ but a big dream that is a path to ‘wholeness.’ ‘Wholeness’ and ‘Healing’ are two important themes for Greenleaf – these continue to be counter to our materialistic/consumer culture today.
How many folks who are seeking to be elected are steeped in the swamp of criticism? How many are preoccupied with being critical and are not able to respond to the question: ‘What will you do if you are elected?’ How many responses are condescending and off-putting? How many of us are steeped in criticism rather than rooted in the discipline of critical-thinking? How many of us equate ‘Being Critical’ with ‘Being a Critical Thinker’ – they are not the same; not by a long-shot.
We continue to be a culture enamored by three seductions: the ‘quick fix,’ ‘instant gratification’ and ‘instant perfection.’ We are whelmed over by advertisers and politicians who offer us (or is it seduce us to embrace) these three (in a sense they are not to ‘blame’ for these folks simply offer us what we seek and/or demand). The servant is not popular because the servant will refuse to offer or engage in these three seductions.
Given all of this, it is no wonder that serving continues to not be ‘popular.’