The Sioux believe that children are a gift from God – a gift so sacred, so holy, that they are kept off the ground for the entire first year of their life. The Sioux also believe that children are sent as messengers and so the naming of a child takes place long before birth and is a tribal responsibility. In the process of choosing a name, two questions are asked: Why has this child been sent to us? What message does he or she bring? In fact the Sioux do not even have a word to distinguish a child from an adult. If pressed to describe such a ‘little person’, they would refer to him or her as a Sacred Being.
I believe this understanding of children to be a great thing. It reminds me of an expression I once came across, ‘the grace of great things’.
The grace of great things. It was a phrase that immediately struck a chord within me when I first encountered it – although exactly where and when that was I can’t recall. As I have thought about it I have been reminded of how easy it is for us to lose sight of the great things that call us together – the things that call us to pause, to learn, to remember, to serve, to celebrate and to love. To lose sight of the grace that the ‘great things’ offer can only diminish our community, our relationships, our families at home and at work.
By great things it is meant the subjects around which a circle of seekers has always gathered – not the so called ‘experts’ who study these subjects, not the texts that discuss them, not the theories that explain them, but the actual things themselves. As we gather around and focus on the subject, we open ourselves to encounter the grace that is on offer. And as we do so it evokes from us the courage, security and strength to:
- Explore diversity
- Embrace ambiguity
- Welcome creative conflict
- Practice honesty
- Experience humility
- Discover freedom
- Gift others with space to explore, discover and learn for themselves
It is when these great things lose their gravitational pull on our lives that we can so easily lose our way with others and even with ourselves. We become susceptible to posturing, narcissism and arrogance – in our ways, our experience, our thinking. We become ‘experts’ believing that we have more to give than to receive and in doing so become closed to learning, exploring and experimenting.
These dangers are realized when we attempt to make the great things the subject of marketing, or majority rule, or box them in either absolutism or relativism. With absolutism we claim to know precisely the nature of great things, so there is no need to continue the dialogue with them, or with each other. The ‘experts’ possess the facts, and all that remains is for them to transmit those facts to those who do not know them. With relativism, we claim that knowledge depends wholly on where we stand, so we cannot know anything with certainty beyond our personal point of view. Once again there is no need to continue in dialogue with great things or with one another, for what would be the point?
Great things . . . sacred beings . . . are mysterious by nature. So too, is the nature of leadership. Understanding and holding our children as sacred beings, as ‘great things’, as do the Sioux, is a wise way to approach not only parenthood but leadership. Respect for the mystery and what it has to teach us is something to be treasured. It is something sacred.
Further thought . . .
You might well be asking just what exactly those ‘great things’ are? For every person, family, community and business they differ. You will ‘find’ them as you think about what it is that keeps you together – the things that call you to pause, to learn, to remember, to serve, to celebrate and to love. As you identify those things…and pause in their presence, you open yourself to the grace available. In a coaching relationship with a senior manager I encouraged her to think about, record and reflect on what for her were the ‘great things’. I invite you to do the same…