Last week, asked we asked whether there are any principles from the rule of Saint Augustine that can concretely guide us in terms of how we approach leadership of our own life. We briefly described the rule of Saint Augustine and then consider four principles from the Rule that might offer us some guidance in terms of a “personal rule of life.” This week we examine principles five – through – seven.
Principal Five: The Common Good And Care Of The Individual. Augustine comments on 1 Corinthians 13:5 stating that, “It is written of love that it ‘does not seek its own.’” Thus, no one should work at anything for him or herself. All your work should be shared together with greater care and more eagerness then if you were doing it for yourself. That means to put the common good before your own and not personal advantage before the common good.” (Augustine)
We all have been given gifts, talents and carry settings. The interior life allows us to determine how these talents are to be placed at the service of God and the broader community. With increased focus on our earth and global ecology, The Beatitudes (for example) teach us to consider our choices and the impact that our choices have, not only on the environment, but on others as well. Finally, stewardship of the “common good” requires that we accept accountability for others through our service to them without exercising control over their free will.
Principal Six: Asking For Pardon And Extending Forgiveness. Saint Augustine writes, “Avoid quarrels or at least do so quickly, lest anger grow into hatred.” He also writes, “If anyone hurts another he/she should be careful to heal the wound made by apologizing as soon as possible and the one who was hurt should be careful to forgive without further discussion.”
This certainly ties into the Jubilee Year of Mercy called for by Pope Francis. A community without conflict is impossible but Augustine reminds us that a community will be strong when it’s members interact with honesty compassion and with love. The Augustinian tradition strives to model open, forthright and charitable confrontation, pointing out what is truly harmful to individuals or the community so that the welfare of all is enhanced.
Principle Seven: Obedience And Leadership. Saint Augustine writes, “you should obey those in authority as you would a father with respect for his or her office, lest you offend God who is within him/her. Everyone in authority should consider themselves lucky not in having power over another but in being able to care for another with love. Leaders should show themselves to all around as a model of good works.”
Leaders remain part of the community nevertheless have special responsibilities and duties in the service towards others. In the Augustinian tradition, two of the most important aspects of leadership are guiding the community towards the fulfillment of Gospel ideals and being an example to others. However, every member of the community must take responsibility for achieving these ideals when discerning the direction of the community. This also means obedience to authority involves showing loving compassion for the leaders who necessarily bear greater responsibilities for the community.