The Virtue of Obedience: Why and How it Works
I am about 8 years old sitting at my school desk trying to produce something on my paper for the latest writing assignment. Along comes this helicopter in the sky in the form of a 40 year old teacher who is ready to fire multiple rounds from a mounted machine gun as soon as I make a mistake. The pressure inside is about being perfect so that the teacher looks good. It doesn’t feel like it is about me as a writer. I think about her and begin to tense and sweat. The pressure mounts. I am just thinking about her and what she will say and not about the writing. I make attempts to cover up what I am doing so it won’t be seen and then dread handing it in.
As I grow older the helicopter continues to hover and shoot at will. Eventually I just want to be rebellious and strike out at the helicopter. The writing suffers because instead of being obedient to the rules and structure of good writing, I am just thinking about how to shoot the helicopter out of the sky. I turn to rebelliousness and jungle warfare not unlike the guerrilla tactics of the Vietnam War. I am about as far from obeying the rules of good writing or good anything as you can get. I am obsessed about the rebellion and resist everything.
Taking on the virtue of obedience is a bit like turning your back on your best friend and then walking away from him. Being a rebel has served me quite well because it has always allowed to be on the edge, experimental, and get to new ideas like developing my own theory for dream work. When I think of obedience, I think of turning away from being out there with newness. But being a rebel also has its negative side because I am in a constant state of anger with conservative self-serving leaders. In my mind being obedient has always been giving into being conservative, but after so many years of living in bad administration, the other day I figured that I must have an issue with obedience.
Obedience to the American psyche is like a swear word, certainly not a virtue, and definitely not worth incorporating because it means being blind to what is going on around you and fearful. Nonetheless, my intuition told me to take the plunge and go for it. I am only now into obedience for about two full days, but it has already produced some amazing things inside of me.
The first thing that I realized was that when I was resisting leadership (which have been extremely bad) it put me in the habit of resisting not only the leaders but the work of finishing my own goals and doing all of the small and big things to accomplish what I want. It was like I could get the new idea and be on the edge, but when it came to having to be obedient to what the new vision wanted me to do, I lost sight of the vision. I have a great number of unfinished projects and goals including multiple books to show for it. Obedience was just not in my being. The first thing I had to do was to let go of resisting the obedience part and seeing that it was not in conflict with risk taking or being experimental. To accomplish that I had to be able to give up on trying to resist the rather poor leadership so much, to give them their due, relax, and let go of feeling like they are going to kill everything I do.
The necessity to give the leadership its due despite its incompetence benefits the goal accomplishment process because it puts obeying what you need to do into a flow or positive and relaxed energy rather than resistance type energy. This is what happened to me. Instead of fighting and resisting I just decided to let them have their due and then I could give my own goals their due. The first result for me was in running. The day after I started the work I could run easily for an hour despite barely running for a few weeks. Prior to that every run had become labored because I always felt angry and in an internal fight with the leadership. I just decided to let go of the fight and go with the flow of obeying what needed to be done to accomplish my goals.
Then, while I was taking a nap today, I dreamt that I hit a kid who wasn’t listening to me. Then during my teaching in the dream another group took over my facility. I did a lot of work on this dream and found that there was an unconscious pressure to be perfect with my teaching and no desire on the part of leadership to give the appropriate space to do the work. It is like the admin wanted results but didn’t want to pay the price to get them. So as I am going deeper into the dream I realize that the little 7 year old that I hit is the internal state of some of the leaders. They are like 7 year olds so when I resist them or go against them in a negative manner, they react really badly. Besides making the jump to seeing how so many corporate and political and religious leaders are stuck at the 7 year old stage, I realized that fighting them was definitely not an answer. I am no match for an angry 7 year old in a 50 year old body.
The key is to let go of the resistance, obey the procedures of the 7 year old in the 50 year old body, and then get into a flow of obeying what needs to be done to accomplish my goals. This is just so against my American mind. I want to fight the 7 year olds in all of those corporations and parliaments. It just doesn’t work. That is the problem. The reason it doesn’t work is that a stuck 7 year old cannot handle mixed emotions. They only see red and then go after people. They cannot be hurt by criticism and then also listen and be attentive to the needs of others. If you go after a 7 year old in a 50 year old body, they are going to attack you because they will only feel a lot of anger and nothing else.
When you give the 7 year old in a 50 year old body their due by following their procedures and not striking out at them, then you get the space to do your own goals. But you cannot have an attitude about it. You cannot give them their due grudgingly. You give them their due so that unity can prevail and then you find that the doors are opening to get the space that you want for your own goals.
Am I also the 7 year old in the dream? It is a fair question. If I were, the virtue would not be obedience, but the ability to be experimental. 7 years old lose their ability to go out on the edge and try new things. They retreat to conservative politics and conservative religion and then stick to old ways. They can only really obey someone else’s thoughts. At 7 children usually retreat into only being able to conform. Most leaders would benefit a great deal more from being out there on the edge, but the fear of being hurt just becomes too great.
Just beginning the journey to obedience. The doors are opening.
One of the best talks I’ve ever read on the subject of Obedience is by Paul Semple, and you can read it at: http://bahai-library.com/talks/semple.obedience.html