As a youngster, I dutifully attended religion classes and learned many things that have stayed with me through life. The Corporal Works of Mercy, for example:
- To feed the hungry.
- To give drink to the thirsty.
- To shelter the homeless.
- To clothe the naked.
- To visit and ransom the captive.
- To visit the sick.
- To bury the dead.
In sum, to comfort the afflicted.
Somewhere later down the line, I learned another one, that turns the summary on its head:
- To afflict the comfortable.
That one was NOT taught in catechism, if my memory serves. However, it's there, for those who have eyes to see. Afflicting the comfortable is the job description of prophets. That's why they are so often thrown in jail, run out of town, and even crucified.
In today's world, who is fulfilling this prophetic role? Journalists have laid claim. The Occupy Wall Street protesters more recently.
Anyone else? To my way of thinking, there are others in life whose job description contains Afflicting the Comfortable:
Parents - What is the ultimate goal of a parent? To see their offspring fly out of the nest, set free to soar to their own destiny. What is the way to this goal? Love and Release. The embrace of love must someday turn into the loving push that may seem like an affliction but is necessary to release the child once they are ready to go.
Coaches - What is the goal of a coach? To raise the level of performance of a player or a team. What is the way to this goal? The best formula I've seen is G*R*O*W (from The Inner Game of Tennis) where the coach helps the other person to set a Goal, examine the starting Reality, identify Obstacles, and develop a Way forward. In the process, the most effective coaches ask questions that challenge and push the player to achieve more.
The legendary football coach Ara Parseghian once said, "A good coach will make his players see what they can be rather than what they are."
Change Agents - What is the goal of a change agent? To help the client to change for the better. In organizations, this is definitely easier said than done. Many organizational change efforts fail because of reluctance to change, even when the client invited the change agent in for that very purpose. What then is the way to the goal? Change agents must be ready to afflict the comfortable. To point to the elephant in the room that no one sees, or dares speak of. To "speak truth to power," to tell the emperor he has no clothes.
Like the prophet of old, the change agent may be tossed out for such truth-telling. The truth hurts. But that's the job. Take it or leave it.
How about you? Is there someone in your life (perhaps yourself) who has gotten too comfortable, and needs to be afflicted?
Posted by Terrence Seamon on Sunday January 22, 2012