Beware the Danger of Leadership

A Lenten Reflection by Sr. M. Martha Pavelsky, MHSH

Long ago in my novitiate class, we were warned to “beware people who aspire to office.” I wasn’t sure what that meant, but I guessed there existed, even in religious life, individuals who were hoping to “climb the ladder,” acquiring authority, prestige, power.

If you’ve ever been the child, spouse or parent of an “important personage,” you’ve probably realized what a hazardous matter it is to be in charge.

Scripture readings during Lent give us several examples to ponder. Adam and Eve couldn’t resist eating that fruit: who wouldn’t want to “be like gods, knowing what is good and what is evil.” They wound up wearing fig leaves, not such a great fashion statement, but they certainly did know good and evil.

God promised to make Abram a great nation—a promise powerful enough to induce Abram to leave all that was dear and familiar. Mugs currently on sale in the supermarket proclaim, “Not all who wander are lost,” but as Abram and his folks made their way, with many misadventures, from southern Mesopotamia through Egypt (big trouble there—Abram’s own fault) to the land of Canaan, there had to have been some hot discussions about “wandering” and “lost.”

Jesus is, of course, the prime example of the dangers inherent in leadership. He chaired a committee with some truly powerful leaders—Moses and Elijah—who endorsed him along with his father in the “bright cloud,” but Jesus knew men’s hearts (it says somewhere) so he forbade Peter, James and John from telling anyone what they’d experienced “until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

Jesus was the leader, all right, but what a thankless task that turned out to be (as it had been for Abram, Moses and leaders we might think of in our own time.)

The moral of this story? Pray for all leaders. Offer encouragement to those you appreciate, but count your blessings if you aren’t cast in that role!

2 thoughts on “Beware the Danger of Leadership

  1. This reminds me of a creative election process I thought up years ago. “Line up everyone who is willing to run. Put them aside. Elect someone from the people who have the sense not to run.”

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