Fridays with Benedict: Chapter 2, Adaptive Abbots

In Chapter 2 of the Rule "Qualities of an Abbot" Benedict discusses how the Abbot should deal with the various personalities and abilities of the monks. His advice? Be adaptive. You can't use a "one size fits all" approach:

Chapter 2
32[The Abbot] must so accommodate and adapt himself to each one's character and intelligence that he will not only keep the flock entrusted to his care from dwindling, but will rejoice in the increase of a good flock.
This is good advice across the board. For parents especially.

I often tell my students, when you are getting ready to have your first child you read all these parenting books and get the notion that parenting is like playing offense. You have this plan of child-rearing in your head and when the kid shows up you expect to execute the plan and out will pop, at the end of the training, a final product, the product you planned for and manufactured.

But that's not what parenting is like at all. At all. Parenting isn't playing offense. It's playing defense. The kid shows up, you throw the parenting manuals out the window, and start improvising. Parents, like Benedict's ideal Abbots, "accommodate and adapt" to the child's "character and intelligence."

I also think the same lessons apply to being a good manager in the workplace.

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4 thoughts on “Fridays with Benedict: Chapter 2, Adaptive Abbots”

  1. I like your metaphor of improvising, better than that of "playing defense". But it seems to me that Jazz might work as a metaphor, there's a structure that's almost incomprehensible to those who aren't musicians, but there's also room for a lot of improvisation.

  2. I read a great account of a classically-trained musician/psychologist who kept a reflective journal of his journey to becoming a jazz player (The Musical Mind - John Sloboda).  He describes the gradual development of a set of jazz 'options' and riffs that he called upon in his piano playing giving him enough of a structure to allow him to take creative risks.  I like this idea of choosing to operate creatively beyond the limits of one's own skills, whilst still requiring those skills to be in place.  Calls to mind Richard's posts on skilled Christianity.

  3. I'm not a parent, but I have observed others over the years parenting and it seems that those who took the more adaptive approach faired better. I can definitely vouch that it works well in the workplace, at least that's been my experience.

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