Here in the United States we’re gearing up for the Presidential election season, which really never seemed to stop in the first place. Already news reports are weighing the candidates' poll numbers and debate performances. “He’s vulnerable here,” “She’s had a strong debate,” “He can’t shake this negative perception.” These are the kind of things we hear here and will continue to hear for the next year. A candidate’s boldness, strength, and command of the situation are usually praised, but I never hear anyone praise a candidate’s thoughtfulness.
Benedict gives a couple pages of his rule, in chapter 64, to the qualities to seek in an abbot. Monasteries elect their own abbot, who serves as the superior of the community, having the final say in most decisions for the monastery. I wrote last year about Benedict detailing the qualities an Abbot should exhibit. Chapter 64 gives instructions for the community on whom to choose for the position. One of the qualities that Benedict advises them to look for is thoughtfulness. He warns against someone who is “Excitable, anxious, extreme, obstinate, jealous, or over-suspicious.” Instead, Benedict advises the monks to find someone who uses “forethought and consideration” and is “discerning and moderate.”
It’s rare, in my cultural context, to hear a leader praised for thoughtfulness. We look mostly for a show of strength and the ability to deliver a well-timed zinger, but rarely does one say, with praise, “She’s a thoughtful leader.” In reality, though, thoughtfulness and moderation is what we want. We want someone who will consider the situation, hear both sides, and make a reasoned decision removed from the passion of the moment. Whether it’s an abbot, president, pastor, judge, teacher, whatever--isn’t thoughtfulness a quality we would want in their leadership? I know it doesn’t play well on television and in Presidential debates, but in the end Benedict is right: thoughtfulness should be what we seek in a leader.
"In drawing up its regulations, we hope to set down nothing harsh, nothing burdensome." - Rule of St. Benedict