Sunday, 20 December 2009

The loneliness of conscience

Last week I posted a quote from some editing I was doing to my facbook page. Written by Alison Phipps who is a member of the Iona community, you'll be able to find the quote in the new year in a book called "telling Peace" linked to the Advent resources which the WCC has put online. The book is about story-telling as a way of encouraging peace-building, story telling as a way of overcoming the violence inherent in our lives.
The quote I put on my facebook status was "I worry for the colleague I found in tears at his desk, overwhelmed, just utterly overwhelmed by the unrelenting slaveries of unmeetable deadlines, inflexible colleagues, the loneliness of conscience."
That phrase "the loneliness of conscience" really struck a chord with me as I know that it did with another friend who has gone through a very difficult time.
In terms of leadership and of organisational systems the loneliness of conscience is quite a challenge. How do you encourage "conscience" in and among colleagues? If an organisation relies upon "lonely conscience" is this actually a way of scapegoating people, pushing work downwards onto those already doing too much? I have also been thinking about Social Darwinist ideas and how it is very easy for work place structures to passively fall back on social darwinist ways of operating when there is not sufficient relational trust in the systems. Making life for the lonely conscientious individual even more difficult.
So how do we tell our stories of the workplace in ways that build peace, increase trust and create healthier non social-darwinist organisational strucutures?
The workplace is a professional environment but it is also a social and emotional environment which can end up making individuals very lonely. Telling the stories of the complex places we work in is challenging, it's not just a leadership and management task, it's also a theological task.
"Blessed are those whose conscience is lonely, for the dawn shall rise warmly upon them."