Hypocrisy or holiness?
Meekness may call for leaders to put themselves in unpopular positions to fight for righteous causes, knowing the outcome is persecution. Leaders who delegate their authority to key team members multiply their influence exponentially. Similarly, Jesus delegated his authority to the Church. Every pope has had a slightly different approach to that authority . . .
Our Catholic faith is filled with paradoxes. At a glance, an uninformed person may see successful Catholic leaders as hypocrites. They might ask, “How can you drive your fancy car and live in that big house? The Bible says it is easier for a rich man to pass though the eye of a needle than to enter paradise.” Or “How can you boss everyone around at work every day? The meek shall inherit the earth. Pride is at the center of all evil.”
These economic times have tested everyone. Our attachment to material goods or power can shine light on whether we’re living lives of paradox and holiness or contradiction and hypocrisy.
Success can lead to materialism, but it’s possible to have “things” without being attached to them. Making important decisions can lead to personal pride, but it can also be a path to holiness. So how do we reconcile the need to be confident and to control certain aspects of our respective organizations with the Christian virtues of humility and meekness?
The answer is more about the connotation of these terms than it is in resolving a true conflict. Being meek is often wrongly defined as being weak because meekness carries with it the assumption of submissiveness. However, being submissive is one of the greatest signs of character and strength in a leader. The saints (who should be considered the strongest of all people) were submissive to all righteous authority even when it was inconvenient. Their meekness provided the prudence to engage only in relevant battles and to stay focused on what is important. Without meekness people get caught up in fruitless debates which can lead to resentment, envy and revenge. Strong leaders avoid those negative characteristics with meekness as a shield.
Christ called himself meek and humble of heart, yet he turned over the tables in the temple and called the unrighteous a “brood of vipers.” At times, meekness calls for leaders to put themselves in unpopular positions to fight for righteous causes, knowing the outcome is persecution. It was certainly not pride that inspired Jesus. It was his loyal submission (or meekness) to the Father. Being meek also assumes being compliant. It has been my experience that compliant leaders, who have solid business acumen, are excellent delegators. Most people rightfully think of compliance as a top-down issue. However, leaders who delegate their authority to key team members should be compliant with the decisions those key people make whenever possible. That’s how to multiply your influence exponentially.
Christ delegated his authority to the Church, and every pope has had a slightly different approach to using that authority. They all differ somewhat on how best to communicate the truths of the faith, but they haven’t wavered on the content of faith and morals. The accommodation Christ offers the leaders of his Church is a great model for all people in authority. Leaders can follow Christ’s example by never accommodating an immoral act or even a morally neutral act that stands in opposition to the organizational mission, but whenever possible, accommodating individualized approaches to solutions.
Many secular leaders claim that pride accelerates success and power. That’s only half true. Pride can be a positive attribute. To take pride in your work is a markedly Catholic trait. We should do all of our work to glorify God; therefore, having pride in what pleases Him is righteous. Saint Paul even “boasts” in his epistles about the righteous work he did. At first blush it almost looks like bragging, but a closer read reveals a paradox, not a contradiction. It’s clear that his boast is directed toward God in praise for His grace — not a personal tribute.
On the other hand, self-aggrandizing pride is the root of sin. This pride is not something that accelerates power or success in any way. In fact, it does the opposite. Pride always comes with an equal dose of blindness. Leading with pride is like driving with a mirror as a windshield. It prevents you from seeing where you are going because the entire focus is on yourself. Obviously, that causes you to run over things and people on your way to an inevitable crash.
Humility is the antidote to pride. It keeps your windshield clear because humility is precise truth about oneself in the eyes of God. There’s no greater strength than truth. So how can you be sure that your life is not filled with hypocrisy? How can you know that you’re not attached to your material goods? How can you know that you only make decisions to help the organization that you lead rather than to pump your ego?
It’s remarkably easy to deceive ourselves into believing that we’re not attached to items or to power. Self-justification is a very strong motivator. It’s often only when those things are taken from us that we realize how attached we really were. That’s why it’s imperative for leaders to stay especially close to the sacraments. We need supernatural clarity if we are truly to know ourselves. God’s grace is often the only power potent enough to penetrate our pride.
Dave Durand is best-selling author of “Perpetual Motivation” and “Win the World Without Losing Your Soul.” He is a business executive and trainer of well over 100,000 individuals in sales, marketing and business management.