Monday, February 11, 2013

Responsibility and one's position in life

Today, Pope Benedict announced he was going to resign the Papacy.

What an uproar it has caused!  You don't resign as the Pope, apparently. At least not in the last 600 centuries!  It would seem the Catholics would rather a man of failing health and likely failing cognition, frail, and tired lead their faith than consider appointing a younger, more capable leader.  Perhaps this is but a glimpse into what is wrong with so many organizations, and indeed, society as a whole and the unrest in the world, religious or not.

First, let me say, Kudos Pope Benedict!  As a recovering Catholic (different story) and plain old human being, I admire you for your ability to be true to yourself, your profession and your most supreme position in your profession.  To have the wisdom to know you are no longer fully able to serve your people in the capacity you were chosen to, and to have the courage to choose to do something no Pope has done in recent history, is admirable and should be touted as such!  You are taking care of your needs as well as those of the people you lead, but setting a wonderful example, at least in this case, to not only your faithful, but to the world.  You know when it is no longer you job to do.  You did what you encourage your faithful to do, do the right thing!

Change is good!  The only thing that has ever changed the world is a different way of looking at things.

Perhaps this is a wake up call from the leader himself for reform of the ages old tradition of appointing a pope for life and placing tremendous time, travel, ministry, political and leadership roles and demands on them that don't change just because they grow old.  Not to mention the tremendous scandal and clamoring for changes in leadership (gender) and service along with dwindling faithful because of disagreement with doctrine that has not changed with society.

In precious few other positions would one expect to lead millions with so many demands into their 70's, let alone until the day they die!  With aging comes frail health, cognitive challenges in the form of impaired memory or dementia, mobility challenges and plain old fatigue!  Pope-mobile or not, it's a job most 30-somethings would find demanding!

I feel it necessary to say I know this is a potentially charged subject and I have no desire to get into a religious or political banter, so don't bother commenting on it for the sake of argument, I won't engage in it.  I am not discussing religion or any of the 'issues' surrounding Catholicism  the scandals and nuances of this or any other religion.  I have my opinions but I have no desire to discuss them. It is not my intention nor something I wish to spend time or energy on.  I respect we all have opinions, let's leave it at that beyond the scope of this post.

What I do want to encourage you to ponder, is how this could be an example to anyone and everyone.  People in positions of political or religious power.  CEO's of large organizations and companies both for and non-profit.  Prestigious positions in government and the private sector.  Heads of households!  A call to think about the demands of your job, your passions, the other important tenets of your life and not only how to balance them, but how to execute those roles in the best way for the greater good.  Sometimes, and more often than it actually happens, that means knowing when it's time to step aside or down and let a new leader emerge.  One who can truly meet the demands of the job.

Can you think of anyone you know, personally or simply that you have heard of in the media, who has remained in a position of authority or power far longer than they should have simply because there are no 'rules' about term/time limits?  How about self-proclaimed community leaders?  Corrupt 'election' practices in local government, Boards of Directors and generalized nepotism?  The list goes on.

Our ability to recognize whether or not we are the *right* person for any given job is one thing.  It is another, perhaps even more important thing, to realize when we are not or no longer, the *right* person for the job.  We need to divorce our ego and look at it from the outside in.  If we can't do that, we need others within our 'organization' to have the ability, courage and for lack of a better term, balls, to speak up for reform and change.

We need to be responsible not only to ourselves, but to those whom we serve.  We are not about having the best job, fanciest car, biggest bonus or most money.  Yet as a society, we are power hungry and materialistic.  We want to be on top.  We want to be admired and liked.  We strive for it.  But is it what we really want?  What we are really good at?  Does it fill us up?  Is it our passion?  You can't take it with you, at least the material part.  Working 80 hour weeks to be famous and rich only to die alone because you shut out your friends and family is not a legacy at all.

All we truly have is our reputation and it should be based on truth.  To ourselves and toward those we serve.

Take a look around you.  From your own immediate family to your co-workers, community, state, region and on upward of all the organizations you belong to, support or area  part of.  Consider those in positions of authority and power.  How did they get there?  How long have they been there?   Do you think they are the right person for the job?  Why or why not?  Do you have any idea how to suggest or catalyze a change?

Be the change.  Recognize your strengths and your limitations. You owe it to yourself, your family and society to seek, live and honor it.

Try it, it's not so hard.  :-)  If the Pope can do it, so can you!


  1. "Catholics" would not rather that. This is an unprecedented move in our lived experience as Catholics and so we are surprised. As the day has unfolded, as a Catholic that works for the Church, I am seeing a great deal of respect from 'Catholics' towards our Holy Father, who in his simple and beautiful humility has chosen to step down from his position to make way for what he deems best for our Church.
    This article is funny, because it shows that you draw your understanding of Catholic reaction from media sound bites, rather than from Bishops, Cardinals, Church workers, every day Catholic Faithful (i.e. Catholics that are more than Catholic in name only). I don't mean that as an insult, but I am just making you aware that as a Catholic VERY involved in the reality of the actual Church (as opposed to CNN or MSNBC's reporting on our Church) you are very incorrect regarding the reaction of the faithful!

  2. I wasn't actually describing the reaction of the faithful, but that of the world at large, of which the faithful Catholics are a part, but not the whole.

    My understanding of the Catholic church is not from media, in fact beyond the very brief article I read this am, I've not heard anything else about it. My understanding is from my own upbringing as a Catholic and study of religion/spirituality in a more generalized sense.

    I agree, and am thrilled, that there is respect for his decision to do what is best for the church by those devoted to the religion and his leadership, that is, in fact, exactly what I am praising him for and what this post is about in a much broader sense. It's about doing the right thing because your heart tells you it's right, not because of what others have done before.

  3. I'm sorry.... I have to point it out... it's more like 600 years not 600 centuries... I'm sorry... I tried. I just didn't have the willpower to leave it alone. :(

    1. My bad, it was in fact, 714 years ago. Too many zeros!