Thursday, February 18, 2010

Of Sacred Cows, Golden Geese, and Elephants….

Much of my time lately has been consumed with friends considering how to effectively turn up the volume on accountability in the realm of brokering Christian influence via personalities.

When does the hype of blogs and books and tours and conferences, etc. have to match up with the reality of the journey being traveled by these folks in their day to day lives.  Who are those brokering these personalities?  And what responsibility to they have when it comes to the walk and the talk jibing?

Where is the line between what they want others to know (so that these others will support the blogs, books, tours and conferences) and what they use, exploit, or ignore in order to get the most bang for their buck.  (A crass image for a sadly crass reality.)

And when there are questions concerning said walk and talk being out of sync, where is the line that cannot be crossed in calling the brokers (and their clients/associates) to account?

Just as Jesus used parables in his day to "out" the Pharisees and other religious leaders who had become consumed with the letter of the law but had quenched the spirit, this wee abbess has decided to light a small purple candle to shine on the suffering that comes from being unwilling to look in the mirror and deal with what is beheld.  No names are going to be named ... I offer up these words for the Holy Spirit to use to reflect the light of Papa's love into some very dark places out there.

To remain quiet is to give tacit assent.

* * * * * * * *

The sacred cow might be an example of a useful creature that is respected for its contribution to the health and wealth of society becoming more than respected.  When respect turns to worship, then we have idolatry.

The goose that laid golden eggs might be an example of where the sum being more than the parts meets the problem of greed being the difference between understanding needs and wants.

And, finally, the elephant in the room might go beyond the familiar idiom for turning a blind eye tglaring issues that are embarrassing, emotionally charged, or potentially detrimental.  It might include the fact that elephants, while appearing to be slow and docile beasts carrying incredible burdens when domesticated, are capable of incredible speeds, terrifying trumpeting and incredible destruction when sufficiently provoked or backed into a corner.

What does one do when confronted with all three of these at once?


Rather like the old adage that the only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time, confronting this interesting trio must be taken step by step.

Let’s start with sacred cows.

We have all been in social situations, whether it is religious or familial or political or business, when everyone “knows” that certain “things” or “issues” or “people” are just NOT to be touched or addressed or questioned.  If this cultural norm is transgressed, the perpetrator is usually dealt with swiftly, officially or unofficially, and sometimes very harshly.

The problem comes when a conflicting cultural value, such as integrity, is sacrificed to protect the sacred cow.  Over time there will be one of two outcomes:  the offending sacred cow must be sacrificed for the welfare of the whole, or the value of integrity is stripped of its importance.  You cannot have both.

Next, let’s look at the goose that lays those golden eggs.

Golden eggs are rare.  Geese that lay them are even rarer.  The truth about them is that they are what they are.  Each day they are capable of producing one precious golden egg.  No more, no less.  Feeding them more doesn’t work.  Giving them more luxurious housing doesn’t work.  Praising them doesn’t work.  Providing high priced grooming and accessories doesn’t work.

You cannot get more than one egg per day.  Deal with it.

The problem comes when “need” and “want” are confused and result in some form of greed.  Even worse than this, the golden egg-bearing goose is a GIFT to be received gratefully.  Need and want shouldn’t really apply, and appreciation and stewardship should come to the forefront.  When they do not, frustrated greed frequently ends up destroying the gift in a misguided move of entitlement- or creativity-base "deconstruction".  A gift is more than the sum it its parts.

Finally, we come to the elephant.  Poor elephant … he has been taken from his natural environment (where it's presence has context) and is forced to go wherever its master goes.  It wants to be free.  Surely, someone will notice it and say: “Hey, that elephant doesn’t belong here.”  But, no … it finds itself crowding rooms, breaking doorways, stepping on toes, and making huge, steaming, stinking messes.

Each of these humble creatures—cow, goose, elephant—are not really the problem we're talking about, are they.  It is their handlers with whom we have issues. 

·       Handlers who USE them to dominate and control others.
·       Handlers who EXPLOIT the gift—abusing and destroying the vessel in the process.
·       Handlers who IGNORE their responsibilities to deal with inconvenient issues, destroying persons and relationships instead of building and strengthening them.
No, we are not about to identify cows, geese or elephants.  We are only holding up a mirror and calling you to humbly take a look at the reflection you see.

·       Are you or someone you know being used, exploited or ignored?
·       Are you or someone you know a handler in need of accountability?

These issues can frequently be identified by outsiders, but they can only be dealt with properly by those on the ground, in the context of healthy relationships.  There are example of this being done properly, but many more examples where that is not the case.  (Yes, I just might be talking to you!)

Let me leave you with a little chart that might be a good starting point:

Effective Handlers
Common Issues
Honesty (assisted by Confession)
Integrity (assisted by Repentance)
Humility (assisted by Vulnerability)
Transparency (assisted by Availability)
Discernment (assisted by Character)
Faithfulness (assisted by Reconciliation)

* * * * * * * 

Perhaps pondering David's words as recorded in Psalm 51 would be timely.

Grateful for God's faithful love, his amazing grace and his mighty mercy through Christ Jesus our Lord....



Bill Kinnon said...

Even if you are not the most prolific blogger, Sister Abbess, when you do blog you are ALWAYS worth reading. This is good stuff. And I am not shocked.

AbiSomeone said...

Bless you, young William, for your encouragement....