Tuesday, July 21, 2009

School of Diplomacy, Inner Peace, & Ministerial Presence

I worked for the Federal government from my early 20s through my early 50s. For much of that time, I was supervised and/or mentored by a woman who was concerned about my lapses in diplomacy. These lapses were most frequent in my 20s, gradually tappering off. As the years passed, I would tease her about being a graduate of her school of diplomacy, and she would tease me about not having a diploma to prove it.

I am currently serving as an organizational development consultant to a UU fellowship. The other day a member of its board complimented me on my people skills.

I briefly felt like a postgraduate of my former boss' school of diplomacy. However, drilled in reflection in seminary, I started to wonder what had changed.

As a young man, I thought that my and my family's current and future well-being were dependent upon success in my career. A workplace situation I found threatening felt very threatening indeed.

At first, I was thinking that my newly found (or slowly evolved) skills were merely a matter of not having the same emotional and economic investment in the consulting work that I did in my former career. Yet something quickly told me that this wasn't the right answer. I care very much what happens to the Fellowship.

What has changed is that I have become more aware of limitations -- my own, others, and collective -- and less attached to outcomes. Some of these changes are situational, and some are the gifts of guidance from mentors and friends.

When this thought appeared, I was reminded of a minister's comments about her preparation for her MFC interview. She said she'd spent months anxiously reading and memorizing. Somehow, just before the interview she found a place of peace. Her inner voice told her that the MFC would take her as she was or they would not. I've heard others referred to this moment as the recognition -- without shame or pride -- of being a minister regardless of the MFC 's decision.

There is some strong connection or even an identity between an inner peace and ministerial presence. Diplomacy and compassion often arise from this place.

Please note that I am not speaking of the mythic or unattainable. This sense of equilibrium is not unassailable. Moments of doubt and uncertainty and even of despair still appear. Yet something has shifted.

Where is your sense of equilibrium? What brings you back to center when you feel unbalanced? How do you find that peace in the midst of stress and anxiety? How do you let go of outcomes? The answers to these questions are likely to be more important to your preparation for your MFC interview than those to any fact-based questions you or the MFC can devise.

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