Thursday, December 14, 2006

Quaker Darth Vader

I have a habit of killing things.

I used to kill plants. This is bad for a gardener.

Then I read a lot of books about gardening and paid more attention to what I was doing. Things still die sometimes, but at least I know that I didn't kill them.

I kill groups. My standard formula is pull in, then pull out. For example, join a gorup, get asked to take a leadership role, develop a vision, let others catch the fire of the vision, get knuckles rapped by current leadership structure, pull out to get out of leadership's way, and end up taking everybody along with me so that the group collapses.

Yep, I've done it more than I care to admit. In fact, I generally ask the group not to let me in any kind of a leadership role so that I can't do it. But it always happens anyway: they're short of people, and could I just help out a little; or they need someone who understands music, and there's nobody else; or they just want to learn a little more about this one idea I had, and would I mind coming in to talk to them. This is how it starts. When I say no, they get the idea that I'm either lazy or selfish, or just plain weird, and I get bullied into it.

They have no idea what I'm going to do to them.

I realize I'm in danger of doing it again. As I pull out of my current Quaker meeting, after having promoted and experimented with programming over the past year and encouraging the meeting to do outreach and expand, I will be doing damage. Fortunately, these are strong-minded people, and they will likely recover. But I dread the thought that anybody in the meeting might feel moved to follow me.

I think I dread that more than failure.

This is why I hesitate to get my meeting involved. I don't want a committee of support or clearness. I don't want them getting sucked into the idea. It's for their own good. If I burn, I burn. But it would be just plain awful if I weakened the meeting in so doing.

Leadings can be so awkward.


At 3:50 PM, Blogger Robin M. said...

Here we see the limitations of seeking clearness through blogging.

I don't know how, in a blogging format, to ask all the really pointedly critical questions that someone should be asking you. I don't have enough information to form a valid opinion. It's much easier to just be vaguely encouraging than to struggle to find the right subtleties of language to probe but not be outright offensive.

So I'll just say that it's important to notice your patterns and not assume that new will be better just because it's new. People will be disappointing wherever you go.

Here's another metaphor: Sometimes the new wineskins can be kept on the same old winerack.

At 4:43 PM, Blogger Nancy A said...

I do have two clearness committees (flesh and blood) currently on the go, both nonQuaker. And I have a request in to my MM for a Quaker one whenever the next MM is (we often skip December). So the human form clearness committees are happening.

However, that doesn't change the risks.

Neither does it change the potential benefits.

I'm weighing both right now.

The blogging folk have been very, very helpful over the past few months in helping me to clarify my thoughts, both through reading your blogs and your comments to mine. It's something I'm grateful for, and I will strive over the next busy months to keep my posts interesting and not angst-ridden.

Unless I happen to kill something.

At 3:11 PM, Blogger Liz Opp said...


Thanks for naming a certain dynamic that has been within me, too.

Like you, I would find myself in leadership roles, helping the group move forward, make changes, what-have-you... and then very shortly afterward, I found I had reached my limit with... whatever it was, and then simply move on, letting the group fend for itself.

The thing is, if you and I are ever going to break the cycle and really be part of the movement to help bring God's peace and love to earth, I don't know that we can do it by avoiding leadership roles altogether.

I am finding that what I need instead is a sizeable number of grounded, loving, and gentle Jedi knights to call me out and hold my feet to the fire; at least one seasoned, trustworthy Yoda or Obiwan Kenobi to help slow myself and help me check if I am outrunning my Guide; and a large helping of God's grace to remind me that I am not in control, and to help me transcend and transform my inner Adversary--a word that Fox and maybe some others have used.

I used to do a workshop at FGC's Gathering on "Bringing Our Shadow into the Light." I would present to Friends the idea that we heal and transform the unpleasant aspects of ourselves not by avoiding them but by learning from them, learning how those parts of ourselves are really wanting to help us...

Nancy, it sounds as if you recognize the pattern you have played out; you recognize the gifts of leadership, foresight, vision, and group facilitation that you have; you even recognize where the breakdown begins.

But if you want to change the pattern, you might well have to do something more than just change the venue and start your own thing. You might well have to engage in the pattern until you "get it right" and learn what it is that your deepest self is yearning for and is wanting to help you get, even if it's being done in a backward sort of way.

I realize there is more for me to share, more for me to ask. Not sure if you'd be up for a phone call, given what is on your personal plate, let alone all that typically comes along with this particular holy season. But if you're up for a call, I'd like to connect by phone.

You can email me at lizopp AT gmail DOT com.

Liz Opp, The Good Raised Up

P.S. I also thought of this little parable, There's a hole in my sidewalk, in relation to your situation.

At 9:48 AM, Blogger RichardM said...

I agree that it is hard to offer spiritual advice by computer, but then again with God all things are possible.

I take a three part approach to testing leadings. Internal--the person with the leading needs to try to use discernment on the feeling. Intersubjective--the person should ask spiritually mature people to take the leading into their own space and use their discernment on the feeling. Objective--look for way opening and other external evidence of the leadings genuineness.

I'll expand a little on the third of these. When a leading is genuine the Spirit will ofen arrange some "coincidence" that makes it possible for the person to immediately begin action. A chance conversation reveals the existence of a job opening, or someone pops up and says I could help you with that, etc. This kind of front loaded "coincidence," or Jungian synchronicity is what Quakers call Way opening. But there is also objective external evidence at the back end too. When I follow a genuine leading it has the kind of results that one would expect the Spirit intended. People involved grow spiritually. This will include me of course but will also include other people my actions have affected. What do I mean by spiritual growth? This is also an important question. I don't mean the attainment of some insight. I mean something more mundane but actually harder and more valuable--a growth in patience for example. Paul's list of the fruits of the Spirit is still pretty good.

So I'd ask you to think about your past pattern. After all was said and done did your past efforts at leadership make people more joyful, self-controlled, patient, peaceful etc.? This is where I run out of helpful stuff to say. I haven't met any of the people involved and don't know whether you shook things up in ways that helped people kill their old selves and live in the new self or whether it just upset people.


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