by Frank Muller
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What does it mean to say a thing in someone else’s name? In the work world, we see employees all the time saying, “I don’t believe this, but the boss said it”. In the religious world we hear the faithful saying, “I believe in God, but I disagree with the Church’s teaching”. In the charitable world, we hear the kind saying, “I believe in the cause, but I want to start my own charity because they don’t know what they are doing.”
On and on, in every group defined by a leader we find a division as we use the leaders name to attach blame to a thing we do not like, and we use our name to attach credit to the things we do like. So, the question in my mind is what does it mean when we are in service to another and what are our duties and responsibilities associated with that service?
To use another’s name means more than just their first or surname. It means the essence of a person, all that they represent. If one accepts this postulation, then numerous considerations begin to arise before we invoke another’s name for good or for ill.
First, in order to use another’s name we must ourselves come to know that person and the totality of their teaching and authority. This is the process of discernment. This places our responsibility when we want to use a person’s name, or the brand’s, to fully understand and accept the principals and values they proscribe and then the duty that is then owed to those ideals and its leaders.
Further, it is the duty and the responsibility of the leader to communicate those principles and values associated with the common mission and to remain faithful to those both in words and deeds.
Simply put, if we are to say yes to a thing – we are saying yes to everything – either as a leader or a follower. Ok, herein lies the inevitable push back to this obedience. What if the person or brand does a thing we do not understand or if we understand but do not believe in it? Then, the simple answer is to try hard to come to understand and to believe whilst remaining faithful in the process.
What happens if we go through that process (sometimes years or decades) and we come to believe they are in error? Quit. That is right. Honor at that point demands resignation. Once again this raises the ire of the disobedient servant who would rather not sacrifice over honor but profit from division.
What if I want to stay but only if they go? This becomes another question of morality and ethics that surrounds our duty to a thing. Each level of a hierarchy is subject to the next. The same duties of each level of leader and follower goes through the same process. Are there errors or mistakes made along the way? Sure, but in most instances, they are ultimately cured by the leader and the follower at each level committing to the same view and interpretation of the principals and values.
Everyone at all times though retains their freedom to simply leave and in fact should when the values and principles that once attracted are no longer ones a person believes in anymore. The primary issue in acting in another’s name in alignment with the principals and values of the collective is that we are all good with it until those principles and values come at our own expense or in having to do things we simply do not want to do.
Within this framework, it becomes clear that within families, churches, companies, charities, teams of any sort, or any form of corporate or collective body that the breakdowns flow first from setting the right principles and values, forming leaders and reforming leaders at all levels to those, forming and reforming followers (we are all a follower at every point in the food chain including the CEO). When the formation is broken or breaking down, consequences flow.
Within this framework, it also becomes clear that obedience in service to those ideals is the sacrifice we must all endure in order to preserve those ideals even if it means at any moment in time, we may not understand the why or the what of a thing. Pride rebels against obedience until it is put in charge and then it asks for that obedience when it is in charge.
Thus, the paradox, the greatest leaders and followers are those who serve the most and persevere the longest in service to values and principles that mean more than personal advancement. When we think back about those who have achieved the most for good (not usually profit), we generally see and recognize the sacrifice and suffering that led years later to great blessings for others.
As we seek to influence the world for good, we must be merciful and forgiving. No one can do this perfectly so we when we stumble (or better yet see someone stumble), run to their aid in sacrifice and service for one day we will each need the same Mercy.
When we act in another’s name, we should consider their whole being when we do so. A name cannot become a personal tool for self-advancement. A name represents the totality of a person. It is holy, it is to be carefully revered, and it must be used in the context upon which that person would agree if they themselves were present in that moment.
May Peace be with us all.