Baba was fond of the saying, “Only those who can obey can command”. He was himself a great leader, and he had attained that by wholeheartedly obeying his Guru, Nityananda. If we want to understand authority, we each have to willingly submit to authority. Once we have gained this understanding, we can relate with our own and others’ authority appropriately.
We cannot even begin this process if we have an immature notion of authority. If we believe that authority means power, privilege, status, or adoration, then we will never rise above resentment.
|Caring / committed||Indifferent / uncaring|
Most people see themselves as superior or inferior to authority, and don’t understand that we each are to play our respective roles and respect others’ roles. When we acknowledge authority, we want to look at qualities like integrity, honesty, expertise, discernment, and wisdom. The truth is, we should feel safe with an authority; if we do not, then either the person is not a true authority or we are unwilling to respect authority, and resent it wherever we encounter it.
People who resent authority often seek positions of authority as a way to avoid having to obey anyone else. What they fail to realize is that with authority comes accountability. So their strategy comes apart. Willingly obeying authority is a choice that we make out of our own authority over ourselves, and obeying a true authority serves as a kind of apprenticeship in handling authority responsibly.
One thing we learn in such an apprenticeship is that an authority is still just part of a team. He has a role to play, but is also, on a deeper level, equal with everyone else on the team. The authority is meant to be there for everyone’s good, bringing expertise, accountability, discernment, and guidance to the team. A good authority also models how to approach situations. It is actually self-destructive on every level to pick a fight with a true authority.
People who resent authority see it as erasing their line, so they try to diminish it, and consequently diminish themselves. By consciously obeying authority, however, a good apprentice realizes that surrender to a true authority is not having one’s line erased. It is actually acknowledging our own agency and authority, and respecting their limits. It is a requirement for learning. And a true authority is above all else a learner.
A humble willingness to learn is a necessary condition of real authority, which requires expertise. One mark of a true expert is that she is constantly learning and loves to expand her knowledge. At each new step, she goes over what she has already studied. Once we are experts, we can see things we would never have noticed as apprentices.
In our relationship with authority, both our own and others’, we are actually engaged in an apprenticeship for our relationship with God, Who is both without and within us. Until we are capable of choosing to obey a true authority in relative reality, we cannot surrender to the absolute authority of the Self of All.
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