Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Power of the Small Way

In our increasingly competitive and pragmatic world we often think that is is doing large and impressive deeds that provides us with measure for effective leadership. So leadership meetings are often oppertunities for parading our strengths and insights. I am not better. During a providential discussion this morning I was reminded of the power of doing small things for the love of God. Thérèse de Lisieux (1873-1897) was a simple Christian leader that valued the power of child-like simplicity in her approach of spirituality and leadership: "Sometimes, when I read spiritual treatises, in which perfection is shown with a thousand obstacles in the way and a host of illusions round about it, my poor little mind soon grows weary, I close the learned book, which leaves my head splitting and my heart parched, and I take the Holy Scriptures. Then all seems luminous, a single word opens up infinite horizons to my soul, perfection seems easy; I see that it is enough to realize one's nothingness, and give oneself wholly, like a child, into the arms of the good God. Leaving to great souls, great minds, the fine books I cannot understand, I rejoice to be little because 'only children, and those who are like them, will be admitted to the heavenly banquet'."

For Thérèse the power of the "small way" starts in our relationships with others: "Love proves itself by deeds, so how am I to show my love? Great deeds are forbidden me. The only way I can prove my love is by scattering flowers and these flowers are every little sacrifice, every glance and word, and the doing of the least actions for love." For me the "small way" includes accepting advise, admonition and rebuke from our brothers and sisters. To have the humility and grace to accept when we are wrong, the willingness to be corrected and the constant desire to learn from the those around us.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta who was deeply influenced by the "small way" of Thérèse de Lisieux once summarized this approach of leadership as follows: "Small things with big love. It is not what you do that is important, by how much love you put into it that matters."