Thursday, December 17, 2009

Truth beneath the power -- December 17, 2009

"Listen for the truth of a thing, not the power for a thing." (page 146) In my experience we may indeed listen for the truth of what is being said or done, but more often than not we react to the power of what is being said and done.

The challenge is to listen beneath the power. That takes work. And the work is to resist the temptation to respond with a verbal salvo after having received one. In conversation, we are more inclined to score points or win arguments than to search for the presence of the Spirit -- which does what the Holy Spirit always does -- bring people and ideas together.

"Listen with a critical ear for the sound of the gospel in everything you do. And don't do what isn't a gospel act, no matter who says so, no matter who orders it, no matter how sacred the institution that demands it....

...Or else power before truth."


  1. Bishop Beckwith writes: “And the work is to resist the temptation to respond with a verbal salvo after having received one.”

    I’m retired now but the lesson above is one I learned the hard way during my 37 years with AT&T. It’s much better to go home, decompress, get a good nights sleep, and then think about a reply. Responses that come during the heat of an exchange can ruin friendships, marriages, and careers. Words have power and that power can be used to hurt as well as heal. Once uttered, those words can never be recalled. Even after the proverbial handshake the damaged caused by those words lingers afterward; sometimes for years, sometimes for ever.

  2. The slippery-est slope of power, and power moves, may be that they appear to change the status quo--who's up, who's down, who's in, who's out--it can be frighteningly easy to get sucked into the dynamic of comparing ourselves vis-avis someone else's situation. That only works when we are looking at how to aid and assist, rather than how to jockey for position.

  3. In response to Diane Rhodes,
    Respecfully, I’m not exactly sure what your point is. Power absolutely does change the status quo. That is the nature of power. That power and the misuse of power can be a slippery slope, of that there is no doubt. As far as comparing ourselves to someone else’s situation, that is also and always the nature of things. We cannot describe ourselves or state who and what we are in a vacuum. We always need a reference point if for no other reason than to say that we are here and you are there. And whether we are aiding or jockeying for position, it is all the same. People with power can exert that power and people without power cannot. In a philosophical discussion I could say that “I am I”. But what does that mean and does anybody in the real world really care. Try putting “I am I” on a resume.


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