Skip directly to content

Fr. Glenn: ‘MY Kingdom Come’

on February 3, 2019 - 7:17am

By Fr. Glenn Jones

Anyone who has ever worked in just about any organization has encountered those persons for whom cooperation for the betterment of that organization takes rather a back seat to the protection of their own “territory”—their “kingdoms”. Some of those tendencies seem to be protection/accumulation of authority, and not having to be subject to wishes or desires of others—even when beneficial to the whole … or possibly insecurity about perceived encroachments against their authority—whether those “encroachments” are legitimate or not. 

But, on the (sort of) flip side, there are also those persons who simply want to make sure everything is “right”. These often have had bad experiences with persons less meticulous/competent than themselves, are very hesitant to let others “in” unless those others can meet their own often very uncompromising standards.

Huh. Does either of those sound particularly beneficial? Certainly not the absolute defensive mode of protecting one’s own authority—not if the person is truly seeking the common good of the whole.

Yes, we tend to fear loss of position, of prestige … of power … resenting those who dare attempt to carve off a piece of that authority—whether the “usurper” has good ideas, or—worse—is the “boss”. Then it’s … helllloooooo resentment! Hellllloooooo becoming purposefully hindering whenever possible. Helllloooooo the “long knives” coming to stab the perceived supplanter in the back through misinformation, gossip and rumor-mongering … being the stumbling block, the refusal to cooperate. If you’ve not seen such, be patient; your opportunity will come.

The second “protector of the realm” can be quite different—perfectionist, scrupulous, yet very often very well-meaning. These protect their domains because they want everything to be done “right”, which is, in itself, admirable; however, often quite unsustainable, and the person can become overwhelmed. Bosses tend to love these types because they’ll work from dawn to dusk and beyond … often without complaint (at least to the boss) because griping might: 1) draw attention to their own self-perceived (but false) limitations, and 2) result in that dreaded and undesired assistance being mandated. 

Obviously the “protection-of-my-power-at-all-costs” persons—even though they may be productive—can be thorns in the sides of both supervisor or organization, tossing obstacles in the path of progress to ensure a domain unchallenged … increasing that domain wherever possible, almost like a toddler: “Mine!  Mine!” So … if people have to tiptoe around you because they’re afraid of eliciting your wrath or vindictive attitude, you might be one of these. Or, if you are entrenched … immovable … at any suggestion, bad OR good … or require that every. single. thing. be routed through you if you have subordinates, you might be one of these. 

The scrupulous person, however, while usually quite well-intentioned, can—as one can imagine—work themselves to death, and be hostile towards those helpers that are provided or even necessary. If you breathe fire at even small deviations from your preferences—even if your helper(s) is very sincere—you might be one of these. 

So … how to remedy ourselves if we fall into such categories? And the answer is, of course:  humility—that great virtue of which Jesus Himself was the absolute (and perfect) exemplar.

Part of true humility, of course, is not seeking the most profitable—the Good—for oneself, but rather for the other—whether it be an individual, a group or an organization.  To do that, we must examine ourselves with clear vision and realize that there will always be ways and people that do things at least as well as we ourselves, and to accede to assistance and suggestion. After all, if nobody accepted recommendations, we’d still be driving Model T’s. (One of the stories of Henry Ford was that his plants only produced black Model T’s. When told that people wanted the car in other colors, he famously replied:  “A customer can have any color he wants … as long as it’s black.” So much for suggestions!)

The scrupulous person, too, would be wise to realize that he/she can’t do all … or, at least continue to do all in perpetuity, and for the continued good, should mentor others. So … surrender to the teacher within you and edify others by teaching them what you know. After all, somebody’s going to have to take over some day regardless.

Finally, one thing often lost in our day is that, while having the same root, humility is not humiliation; from a same root proceeds both thorn and flower. And while internally we might feel humili-Ated in acceding to that which chips away at our pride, in reality such is a benefit for all … seeking the common good of the whole by loosening the iron grip of ego. And consider: it is not the immovable, the braggart, the inordinately proud whom we admire, but rather that humble man or woman who seeks to serve … reminding us of Jesus again: “[I] came not to be served but to serve, and to give [my] life as a ransom for many…” (Matthew 20:28) And what can possibly be more honorable than that?

If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things…When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways. …faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:4-13)

Love is the beauty of the soul.  (St. Augustine)

Rev. Glenn Jones is the Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe and former pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church in Los Alamos.