By what means will we lead in this hinge time in history? What habits and practices will nurture the ability to live and lead in the liminality of our time? What role do relationships play? Perhaps, the place to begin is by reflecting on what it means to flourish.
As is common in cultures on the downside of the lifecycle, there is a strong fear of failure these days. The resulting push to avoid mistakes and be “perfect” not only limits creativity, but blocks the very transformation we seek. It is important to remember that the ancients understood wholeness to include both shadow and light. As Carl Jung notes: “There is no light without shadow and no psychic wholeness without imperfection. To round itself out life… calls not for perfection but for completeness and for this the ‘thorn in the flesh’ is needed, the suffering of defects without which there is no progress and no ascent.” A mistranslation of the Greek word“teleios” has led generations of Christians to seek “perfection” over “completeness.”
Yet, the ancients understood the importance of acknowledging the dualities within each one of us. Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz in The Power of Full Engagement reflect on the concept of anacoluthia—the mutualentailment of virtues: “By this notion, no virtue is a virtue by itself. Rather, all virtues are entailed. Honesty, without compassion, for example, becomes cruelty.”
To seek the flourishing of our communities in this threshold time requires courages and a willigness to engage the whole person, not just those attributes which are perceived to be culturally acceptable. This speaks to the need to confront and claim our whole selvers in service to others. As Henri Nouwen reminds us: The great illusion of leadership is to think that we can be led out of the desert by someone who has never been there.
Maybe there is a purpose to these desert times in which we find ourselves!