Week 26: Become the Beauty
We have all witnessed the dark power of leadership ugliness: its victims, its trail of tears, its devastation. We have seen how one world leader can single-handedly sabotage a nation’s sovereignty and freedom, terrorize the innocent and vandalize the sculpture of geopolitical balance. We have seen the waffling of weak leaders in the face of the five-alarm fire of climate change. We have witnessed instances of leadership ugliness everywhere– in churches, in businesses, in communities. This is why, good leader, you are called to the dance. You must become the beauty the world needs.
Lived beauty is the antidote to all the world’s hate, violence, ignorance and neglect. Are you such a leader? It is not an easy path. To discover your God-given interior beauty, you must accept the path of hardship. It’s painful to audit your soul and confront your hurts and regrets. It takes courage to surrender, repent and seek God’s grace. But if you commit to the work, your capacity to change the world for the good will be great.
The poet Robert Frost described it this way in his poem “The Gift Outright”:
Something we were withholding made us weak
Until we found out that it was ourselves
We were withholding from our land of living,
And forthwith found salvation in surrender.
Such as we were we gave ourselves outright
The surrender Frost refers to is surrender to God. From the scientists who tackle climate change to the practitioners of diplomacy to the defenders of democracy to pastors in our houses of worship, to all the people in key support roles throughout the world-– we need leaders who walk daily with God. Piety points us to decency; decency leads us to civility; civility to charity; charity to democracy; democracy to diplomacy; diplomacy to sustainability. These are the seven disciplines of leadership goodness. Leaders who follow this upward path (from piety on up) radiate beauty. Their beauty draws others in. By this path, a leader’s mission becomes a people’s movement. And so we change the world.
Who planted into your soul your original goodness? From whence came your gifts and (for that matter) your gaps? God. The God of all Creation gave us all of these, along with a purpose. To pursue that purpose through the use of our gifts is our sacred duty and privilege.
Jesus showed us the way. He radiated His beauty, and it changed the world. He descended into the margins to find and save the poor, the sick, the lost and the sinful. And he kept saving and saving, until his last breath on the cross. What love-touched beauty when, naked and pierced to a cross, He said, “Father forgive them; they know not what they do.” What healing beauty– when He saved the prisoner hanging next to him, saying: “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” What protective beauty– when He asked His disciple John to care for His mother Mary (“Woman, behold your son. Son, behold your mother.”). What self-emptying beauty– when, sacrifice accomplished, He whispered Himself into the arms of God: “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.”
Become the beauty, good leader. God calls; our world hungers.
“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” — 1 Peter 3:3–4
In January, February and March, my weekly letters to you took up the question, “Who is God?”. In April, May and June, they took up the question, “Who am I?”. Now it’s time to turn to the third quarter of our year, when we will take up the question, “Where’s the Need?”. For July I will begin with five letters, in which I offer some reflections on American democracy. The first of these comes on July 1, just in time for our July Fourth celebrations. Then in August I will share with you some thoughts on geopolitics and sustainability. In September we’ll explore church and community.
In love, beauty and joy,
P.S.: We are all called, in our own unique way, to become the beauty the world needs. Beauty is as beauty does, as this poem conveys.
Maples dewed and firelit welcome Fall’s day
Canyon grand enacts its vast color-play
Arm-cradle warms by breath of sleeping child
A crosswalk-calm hand takes frail with smile
A pastor fields fraught midnight calls from flock
Someone takes pause for homeless man to talk
Soft prayer with prisoner who strives to endure
Salvation Army makes lodge for the poor
Concession speech humble, warm, gracious
Greta Thunberg; The United Nations
Nobel Peace Prize, Catholic Charities
Supply-chains for food for all refugees
Beauty gives, beauty heals and beauty protects
Will you become beauty, to step forward next?
Previous Week’s Letters: