The Power of Obedience
8th September 2022
‘Every great person has first learned how to obey, whom to obey, and when to obey’.
(William A. Ward)
HOM: Managing Impulsivity
Over the summer I was delighted to look after my son’s little dog Bella. Bella is a disarmingly cute small white fluffy dog, a cross between a Poodle and Bishon Frise. At just over one year old she is not much more than a puppy and has quite a lot still to learn about obedience! In fact her impulsivity can often make me afraid for her safety when off the lead, because she really hasn’t yet learned ‘how to obey, whom to obey and when to obey’. She is obedient but only to her instincts and being a dog, will need clear training to ensure her safety and so that she becomes a loyal and trusted pet.
I think many of us are suspicious about the value of obedience when it comes to our own human lives yet in the monastic life, obedience has long been considered a virtue. It is a virtue linked to the restraining of personal will and impulsivity in order to serve one another in loving service. It is not about ‘blind’ obedience but a considered following of a daily discipline (prayer, work and study), orientated towards God in order to become the loyal, trusted and compassionate person they are intended to become.
Abbot Christopher Jamieson in his book ‘Finding Sanctuary’ gives an example of how he understands obedience, ‘Today more than ever many carers are devoted to the service of an elderly relative at home. That is what the monastic tradition understands as obedience. Yet to contemporary ears this all sound strange: for modern people, love goes not with obedience but with freedom’. The obedience of a carer is to a higher value. Yet freedom of choice is a core value of modern life and people don’t like to be told what to do! However it may be that what we think are our ‘free choices’, are in fact obedience to other people’s views or our own impulsive desires.
And so at the beginning of the school year we will be reflecting on the ‘how’, ‘whom’ and ‘when’ to obey so that we make the most of our opportunities ahead. This will involve thinking about the values and habits which will enable us to flourish and how being obedient to them, will enable us to become our best selves.