Fridays with Benedict: Chapter 64, Strive To Be Loved Rather Than Feared

Chapter 64 of The Rule of St. Benedict has to do with the selection and election of an abbot. As this is the most powerful position in the monastery Benedict spends a lot of time describing the character traits an abbot should and should not possess.

Humility, obviously, is foundational:
8Let him recognize that his goal must be profit for the monks, not preeminence for himself.
Mercy is another key trait, especially in dealing with disciplinary issues:
10He should always "let mercy triumph over judgment" (Jas 2:13) so that he too might win mercy...15Let him strive to be loved rather than feared.
That might be one of the best leadership and management mottoes from The Rule: In a leadership role, strive to be loved rather than feared.

As far as traits to be avoiding in selecting leaders, Benedict offers up this list:
16Excitable, anxious, extreme, obstinate, jealous or oversuspicious he must not be. Such a man is never at rest.

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4 thoughts on “Fridays with Benedict: Chapter 64, Strive To Be Loved Rather Than Feared”

  1. What I see among many evangelical leaders is not so much a desire to be feared, as much as it is an obsession to keep the person of the pew in fear of God. And I am not talking of the healthy, in awe type of fear. What I am speaking of is the fear of too much emphasis on mercy causing the membership to "slide down that slippery slope" where they will feel they can do anything they want.

    To me, this is one of the great differences between progressives, or liberals, which does not bother me at all, and conservatives. Progressives are more apt to check themselves, hopefully in a gentle way, according to the way of Christ and to let God's mercy have its way among others. While conservatives tend to be seriously concerned as to how THE OTHERS are living up to the standard that they themselves see. This concern is rooted deeply within the fundamentalist and legalistic leadership, especially in the south where it is believed that it has become the last vanguard of morality.

    To paraphrase a statement I read in Matthew Fox's book, Original Blessing, most pain and destruction have come from the pleasure haters. Not hating the pleasure they save for themselves, but the pleasure that others assume. And hate needs fear for the structure and control of its "universe".

  2. Of course, the "loved rather than feared" component here already presupposes a situation in which the positionally inferior are devoted to personal virtue. I'm routinely suspicious (*ahem*) of the ever-present urge to generalize such principles beyond their immediate settings...similarly, that is, to generalizing Jesus' pacifistic commandments to the geopolitical scale.

    Not that you've done that, Dr. Beck, which is why I signed my post as I did...

  3. A great monastic tonic at the end of a long week in which I've met plenty of restless people and have been in danger of becoming one myself. Blessings to you and my fellow-readers.

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