Bob Sabath is a wise, wise man. I had the privilege of working with him and getting to know him a little bit when I interned at Sojourners a couple years back, and I’ve always appreciated his groundedness–and his grounded spirituality. So it’s without reservation that I tell you to go read his latest piece–“Poorer, Poorer. Slower, Slower. Smaller, Smaller”–as he shares his thoughts on a journey of forty years engaged in the work of justice. Here are some clips:
In Bill Plotkin’s model of the eight stages of human development in Nature and the Human Soul, institutions can, at most, be stage four, which in his view is still an adolescent level. In his opinion, only 15 percent of Americans have crossed into mature, initiated adulthood, and in general we are stuck in a pathological-adolescent culture that lacks the wisdom of initiated men and women elders.
An institution’s job is to encase the renewal insight in a preserving shell that can carry the renewal seed to a future generation — and not to die to their organizational identity, which is required to begin Plotkin’s stage five.
If we are lucky, we outgrow the organizations that we ourselves give birth to and become “joyfully disillusioned” with the very institutions that we help to create. And if we are wise, some of us will grow by staying within the very organizations that we ourselves have outgrown.
It takes a contemplative mind to see one’s own inner contradictions, the failures and inherent betrayals within our own lives and the institutions that we help to create. Those who take this journey of descent into their own sacred wound understand that what is flawed in them is somehow intimately connected to the unique gift that they have to offer to a broken world.