‘authority’ comes from the latin augere, to grow. since a community is a place to grow, those in authority must foster growth. authority in community is not hierarchical. for its members, ‘if the model of their relationship to authority is worker to boss, or soldier to officer, then there is no understanding of what community means.’ parents, far from being all-powerful and thus stifling growth, help the child to grow into true power.
in helping the child grow, vanier posits traditional roles for mother and father, for ‘there is much confusion today about the role of the father’, where the father is absent, and thus children ‘lack affirmation…. they lack confidence in themselves.’
‘one of the ills of our times [is that] the tendency everywhere seems to be to separate authority from love and to make it legalistic. true authority is exercised in the context of justice for all, with special attention to the weakest people.’ [peter’s thoughts:] laws are legal products. laws are not love. love is warming; a law cannot warm. in this way, a law, even a well-designed law, is no better than no better than no law at all; it is no substitute for an absent parent. [back to jv:] but the parent must love. similarly, the leader of a community must be one ‘to whom others can turn to for help and advice, to provide security, to affirm, to support, to encourage and to guide.’
authority comes from god/dess, who also bestows on community leaders the skills, ‘strength and wisdom they need’ to carry out the responsibility. ultimate authority means loneliness, but it also means divine presence. responsibility is both a burden, a cross, and a gift, a means to grow. paradoxically, the more authority one has, the more solitude one needs. the trick is not to take yourself too seriously, and ‘the secret is to stay young, open, and capable of wonder.’
the goal of a general is victory. the goal of a business manager is profit. but the goal of a community leader is two-fold: to preserve the aims of the community and to help its members grow. ‘jesus is the model of authority for christians.’ in washing the feet of his disciples, ‘jesus leads by going lower than others.’ leaders must defend the lowest members because they have no voice and no power. ‘the interests of the individual must never be sacrificed to those of the group’–yet, the leader must thirst for unity. he or she must not avoid conflict but seek it out and resolve it. this kind of leadership requires servitude, and it requires putting people ahead of institutions. ‘authority is there to help the freedom and growth of individuals. it is the work of love.’
‘one of the essential qualities of people with responsibility is an ability to listen to everyone and not just to their friends and admirers…. one reason that people with responsibility fail to listen is that they are unable to see the community as it really is.’ leaders have to be real, able to listen to criticism and foolery (ie., purposeful mockery–think of the fool). to do so requires confidence and love. also, leaders need to forgive–others and themselves. and they need plenty of patience.