Leading Like a Monk: Looking Into The Faces We See Every Day


Looking Into The Faces We See Every Day

We are surrounded by other people’s faces. Whether we see them in person, across a table or in line at Starbucks, or in photos, the faces are there. Some days it seems we see faces everywhere we look.

What do we notice when we look into the faces we see every day?

Some people believe we can tell a lot about someone when we see their face. There may be a twinkle in their eye or a tendency to smile, or not. Some faces seem to be open, while others are more challenging to read.

I have been told people can see “the devil in my eye,” which I take as a compliment.

We can find hope as well as despair in the faces we see every day, joy as well as sorrow.

I live in a part of the world where the faces all around me every day are diverse. It seems like the faces when I was growing up were all the same kind of people. Now the faces come in many different shapes and shades of skin.

It can be easy not to pay much attention to the faces we see every day. There are so many of them and it takes work to connect with people. Every so often a face we see captures our attention.

Some of us try to ignore or escape the faces all around us.

We may look into the faces we see every day and find competition or threats. There seem to be so many more strangers than friends. We do not know whether we can trust them.

When we look into the faces we see, what we notice often depends on what we expect. What are we looking for in the faces all around us?

The Sacred in the Faces We See Every Day

Benedict’s Rule tells monks to look for the sacred in the faces we see every day.

Members of a monastic community are to honor the deep truth within each member. Even guests are to be received with the recognition of their sacredness.

Monks have shown me by their examples to seek the sacred in the faces I see every day.

Benedict’s direction is not merely being nice to people or putting a positive spin on things. By choosing to see the sacred in other people’s faces, my relationship to them changes.

There are members of the monastic community where I am an Oblate to whom I have never spoken. The hermitage practices silence. I have heard their voices during the prayer services, but we have not had a conversation. The only way I can get to know them is by seeing their faces.

When we choose to look for the sacred in the faces we see every day, we shape how we experience each other.

The choices we make each day determine how we understand each other and the world. If I look for weaknesses or flaws in you, I will probably find them. When we look for the sacred in each other, we are more likely to find it.

Spending time in a community with people who are looking for the sacred in me helps bring it out. Whatever sparks of the sacred are within me grow stronger as other people recognize them.

We are raised to meet expectations when we surround ourselves with people looking for the sacred in us. How can we miss finding the sacred in ourselves when we have help looking for it?

Leadership in the Faces We See Every Day

The leaders who inspire me find the potential in the people whose faces they see. Like the monks in my community, they look for the best in me and help me see it.

I know people in positions of leadership who seem to be afraid of the people around them. They often demand perfection from the faces they see every day. Some of them even assign responsibility to those faces when their expectations are not met.

The leaders who inspire me to appreciate my potential do not use fear or blaming to motivate me. When they look me in the eye they see what lies beneath the face they see.

It is easy for us to see leadership as being about numbers. We think leaders set goals and deadlines, answering questions like when, where, and how much. The leaders who inspire me see their responsibility as bringing out the best in me. Their first step is facing me and seeing my true potential.

Their leadership is not about controlling me or making sure I do not make any mistakes.

The leaders I follow see their leadership reflected in the faces they see every day. They can look beyond what is obvious and see how each of us can lead in our own ways.

The Power in the Faces We See Every Day

Each of the faces we see every day is unique, personal to the person who wears it. They have made it their own.

Each one of the many faces we see is the product of that person’s experiences and expectations. If we look carefully, paying attention, we can begin to learn the stories of their lives from their faces.

The faces we see everyday are our first step in getting to know them. How much attention we pay, as well as our expectations, shape how we open ourselves to them.

We may see them as threatening, or as invitations. The ways we approach and understand the faces we see every day determine how we experience our lives.

The depth of the lives behind the faces we see every day is open to us. We choose to either ignore it or pay attention and learn its lessons.

We can look away or we can make eye contact and smile.

What do we find in the faces we see every day?

How do we look for the sacred and the best in the faces we see every day?

[Image by exquisitur]

Greg Richardson is a spiritual life mentor and leadership coach in Southern California. He is a recovering attorney and university professor, and a lay Oblate with New Camaldoli Hermitage near Big Sur, California. Greg’s website is StrategicMonk.com, and his email address is StrategicMonk@gmail.com.

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