Gleanings: Authority and Compassion

Henri Nouwen continues to offer us wise counsel in relation to the nature and exercise of authority (in Bread for the Journey, April 12).  I want to post his meditation showing how authority and compassion must never be separated….

Mostly we think of people with great authority as higher up, far away, hard to reach.  But spiritual authority comes from compassion and emerges from deep inner solidarity with those who are “subject” to authority.  The one who is fully like us, who deeply understands our joys and pains or hopes and desires, and who is willing and able to walk with us, that is the one to whom we gladly give authority and whose “subjects” we are willing to be.

It is the compassionate authority that empowers, encourages, calls forth hidden gifts, and enables great things to happen.  True spiritual authorities are located in the point of an upside-down triangle, supporting and holding into the light everyone they offer their leadership to.

- Henri J. M. Nouwen

About Steve Harper

Dr. Steve Harper is retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 45 books. He is also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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2 Responses to Gleanings: Authority and Compassion

  1. Excellent quote. Henri Nouwen is always a favorite.

  2. pesmother says:

    Reblogged this on In the process of… and commented:
    I share this here because I am unable to locate the post on its homepage. I think there is wonderful wisdom in this line of thought….and probably ought to delve into it more fully.

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