Virtue of the Week: Obedience

Obedient EmployeesObedient Employees

Imagine, if you will, that you work for a company whose president found it necessary to travel out of the country and spend an extended period of time abroad. So he says to you and the other trusted employees, “Look, I’m going to leave. And while I’m gone, I want you to pay close attention to the business. You manage things while I’m away. I will write you regularly. When I do, I will instruct you in what you should do from now until I return from this trip.” Everyone agrees. He leaves and stays gone for a couple of years. During that time he writes often, communicating his desires and concerns. Finally he returns. He walks up to the front door of the company and immediately discovers everything is in a mess–weeds flourishing in the flower beds, windows broken across the front of the building, the gal at the front desk dozing, loud music roaring from several offices, two or three people engaged in horseplay in the back room. Instead of making a profit, the business has suffered a great loss. Without hesitation he calls everyone together and with a frown asks, “What happened? Didn’t you get my letters?” You say, “Oh, yeah, sure. We got all your letters. We’ve even bound them in a book. And some of us have memorized them. In fact, we have ‘letter study’ every Sunday. You know, those were really great letters.” I think the president would then ask, “But what did you do about my instructions?” And, no doubt the employees would respond, “Do? Well, nothing. But we read every one of them!” ( Kind of makes you think, doesn’t it!)

In schools all over the world, little boys learn that their country is the greatest in the world, and the highest honor that could befall them would be to defend it heroically someday. The fact that empathy that has traditionally been conditioned out of boys facilitates their obedience to leaders who order them to kill strangers.Meriam Miedzian

Obedience is Humbling

When Christian Herter was governor of Massachusetts, he was running hard for a second term in office. One day, after a busy morning chasing votes (and no lunch) he arrived at a church barbecue. It was late afternoon and Herter was famished. As Herter moved down the serving line, he held out his plate to the woman serving chicken. She put a piece on his plate and turned to the next person in line. “Excuse me,” Governor Herter said, “do you mind if I have another piece of chicken?” “Sorry,” the woman told him. “I’m supposed to give one piece of chicken to each person.” “But I’m starved,” the governor said. “Sorry,” the woman said again. “Only one to a customer.” Governor Herter was a modest and unassuming man, but he decided that this time he would throw a little weight around. “Do you know who I am?” he said. “I am the governor of this state.” “Do you know who I am?” the woman said. “I’m the lady in charge of the chicken. Move along, mister.”Bits & Pieces
They may torture my body, break my bones, even kill me—then they will have my dead body, not my obedience.Mahatma Gandhi

The End of the Log

A pastor took up a new position in the small country town or Scio, Oregon, dependent for its income of timber milling. Walking by the river one day he noticed some of the men from his congregation standing atop logs floating down the river. This was the way the logs were transported from the forest to the mill. He admired the skill of the men in standing upon the moving logs and sawing a meter or two off the end of each as they floated downstream. But his admiration turned to horror when he saw the branding on the logs. They came from an opposition sawmill. The men were stealing the ends of the logs and rebranding them as their own.

The following Sunday the newly arrived pastor stood up to preach. He chose as the title for his sermon, “Thou shalt not steal”. Afterward he was congratulated by the loggers on a fine sermon. Pleased that they had got the point he took another walk by the river the following day. But to his utter astonishment there were the men cutting off the end of the opposition’s logs once more. Clearly they had not appreciated the point.

The following Sunday the pastor stood up to preach once more. This week’s sermon title: “Thou shalt not cut off the end of thy neighbor’s logs.” The next week the minister was fired.


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