[Editor’s Note: As part of our current book club on Mother Teresa, CEO, we invited a number of faith leaders to a mini-symposia on faith and leadership. Each participant was asked to comment on one of the eight “Teresa Principles” for practical leadership raised in the book. Our first post is from the Fr. Paul Peter Jesep, a priest and bishop in the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, and a Patheos Expert.]
“Discover the Joy of Discipline” is an advice chapter offered in Mother Teresa, CEO: Unexpected Principles for Practical Leadership. Although I wouldn’t describe them as “unexpected principles,” or that they are always practical or lend well to every situation, the lessons offered are a reminder of values and approaches frequently overlooked or forgotten. In a world that swirls around us and spins our heads due in part to technology and the information age the book’s eight principles offer another route for spiritual grounding.
There are four basic points to the principle referenced above: discipline, get it done now, find joy in everything, and take the work seriously not yourself.
Work or vocation both requires focus and discipline. Getting up before 5 AM with purpose to pursue a grueling schedule required Mother Teresa to have daily discipline, passion, and determination to do it quickly knowing that human suffering increases and doesn’t take a holiday. Suffering can be overwhelming for the one who endures it and the individual who never stops trying to alleviate it. Suffering is the reality that will always be a constant, unwanted companion. Hence, joy must be lived by helping to lessen suffering in the selfless act of love.
Seriousness should be in living with and in the pursuit of joy. In contrast, taking one’s personal importance too serious can turn into self deceiving hubris that there is no one as or more capable to do God’s work. The sojourner grows spiritually when accepting that all work belongs to the Holy Author. The pilgrim is the Creator’s tool fueled with Mystical Love that discovers joy through work.
Tolstoy wrote that “you would do twice, ten times, a hundred times, more than you did. But if you did ten thousand times ten thousand more than all men [and women] have done, what would that have been in the work of God? A mere nothing! God’s work, like Himself, is infinite. God’s work is you. Come to Him, and be not a laborer but a son [and daughter], and you will become a partner of the infinite God and of His world … your work will be neither small nor great, it will be God’s work.”
Joy should be nurtured in what some may consider the mundane. We need to be mindful that without what to others is dull, dreary, tedious labor there can be no joy for us. Grocery clerks shelve the food needed for celebrations with family and friends. The postal delivery person brightens the day with birthday and holiday greetings sent with love. The restaurant dishwasher helps provide the clean table to serve the meal where one lover will propose marriage to another. The custodian sweeps and prepares the stage after each ballet performance of Swan Lake so that the next audience will experience its magic as if it were a premiere under a star filled night.
The Creator empowers us individually and collectively to be the Divine Instrument whose greatest force is in the present. There is no yesterday. There is no tomorrow, though we plan and hope for it. The difference made in the world is always done in the now. To do so, however, requires the discipline to overcome tiredness, sometimes exhaustion, selfish excuses, and distractions of far less importance demanding time.
Work requires discipline and the humility to know that the Creator is using us in a special way. Mother Teresa worked in squalor conditions. She transcended herself beyond a deplorable environment. The joy she sought to create for herself and in the hearts of others is eternal. It is God’s work and she was the Divine Instrument. It is God’s enduring legacy. It’s the calling that continues with each new generation of individuals who have “discovered the joy of discipline.”
Return to the Patheos Book Club on Mother Teresa, CEO here.
Paul Peter Jesep sees the world through the lens of a Christ centered Sophiologist. He believes that the Holy Spirit is Holy Sophia (Divine Wisdom). In so believing Paul accepts Holy Sophia’s invitation as a partner to create a better world. He is a priest and bishop in the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, Ukraine’s third largest Eastern Orthodox Church. He serves as the U.S. designated spokesperson for His Beatitude Metropolitan Myfodii of Kyiv and All Rus-Ukraine.