A friend of mine made an interesting statement to me yesterday about personal security. He observed in his work that people are reluctant to embrace vulnerability because there is not a clear spirit of trust. Most people have had their trust violated by others and as a result, they try to hide their vulnerabilities instead of opening themselves more fully to others. He said, “There can be no security without vulnerability…”
Personal security does not come about when you wall yourself off from others or the world. You may feel a surface relief from the big, bad unknowns in the world at large when you hide your weaknesses and vulnerabilities from others, but you will always on this basis be afraid that something might get through.
Why can there be no security without vulnerability? For starters, no man is complete in and of himself. We all have strengths and weaknesses and we need one another to balance those out. You must make yourself vulnerable to others, that is, reveal your weaknesses to them so that their strengths might fortify you. They probably see your weaknesses anyway, so if you’re trying to hide them, you’re really probably only fooling yourself.
“In diagnosing physical disease, we are assisted by symptomology. Pain is man’s kindest benefactor, often revealing to him his plight in time to apply a remedy. When, however, the reason becomes ill because of some abnormal attitude, the afflicted one is the last to see the symptoms, and too often it is another who feels the pain of the infection. When turned awry, the mind loses its own sense of proportion, becoming incapable of recognizing its own infirmities. Bound as to a wheel by faulty reckoning, it goes round and round upon the axis of its notion, oblivious to the errors of its perspective. A person thus distressed can see the faults of every other man, but of his own is blissfully ignorant, yet willfully so. When his unreasonable purposes begin to bear fruit in the form of various ills, someone else is to blame – never himself.” Manly P. Hall, from “Right Thinking”
Abnormal thinking is usually devoid of the perspective which naturally aligns right thinking with wisdom. Right thinking requires honesty with oneself, a willingness to be vulnerable to both God and men, and and a regular and deep purging of unreasonable (typically self-centered) purposes.
By what means do you reconcile your propensities and your principles? It is easy to see the gaps between these two in others, but how do you address the incongruities in your own pattern? Are you swift to reconcile them or do you avoid such internal discussions like the plague? Do you seek the counsel of those who will hold you to a higher standard or do you turn to those who will reassure you that harboring such disagreements is, meh, acceptable and unavoidable?
The means by which you reconcile your propensities and your principles are the central drivers in the development of your character.
“As nature has uncovered from under this hard shell the seed for which she most tenderly cares – the propensity and vocation to free thinking – this gradually works back upon the character of the people, who thereby gradually become capable of managing freedom; finally, it affects the principles of government, which finds it to its advantage to treat men, who are now more than machines, in accordance with their dignity.” ― Immanuel Kant
You cannot properly manage freedom without free thinking. To understand this one properly define both “freedom” and “free thinking”. Freedom does not derive from license; freedom is the state of being which attends living in accordance with truth. Free thinking is not arbitrary; free thinking is the process by which wisdom is articulated in relation to a particular need.
True government, be it divine or secular, cannot flourish without free thinking. Seek truth and you will avoid being enslaved. Seek truth and you will discover your dignity.
Those who know me will attest to the fact that if there is any credo to which I have lived my life it is this:
One who is injured ought not to return the injury, for on no account can it be right to do an injustice; and it is not right to return an injury, or to do evil to any man, however much we have suffered from him. ― Socrates
Returning an injury for an injury, or “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” as the ancient Mesopotamian Hammurabi’s Code is often paraphrased is a weak and cowardly form of justice. It ignores the power of love, compassion, and forgiveness and it justifies and codifies taking the low road. When you strike back at injustice you are lowered to the level of your attacker. When you strike back the injury is doubled.
Love’s command is absolute. You cannot profess to be governed by love and act on the commandment of love most of the time. It is an all or nothing affair.
Plura sunt quæ nos terrent, quam quæ premunt; et sæpius opinione quam re laboramus — “There are more things to alarm than to harm us, and we suffer much oftener in apprehension than reality.” – Horace
Leadership requires a steadiness in the face of alarm, the ability to reassure in times of uncertainty and the courage to continue to apply wisdom when others retreat fearfully to knowledge and opinions.