Monday 25 January 2010

Member Care and Resiliency—Part 5

High-Virtue Humans

Virtrio: A trio of core virtues.
Human resiliency is the ability to face reality:
to deal with and grow through life’s challenges.

How resilient are you?
You may never know until you confront evil.
Member care is primarily concerned with promoting health by practically supporting mission/aid workers. It involves doing good by carefully and competently helping workers grow.

At times our member care work may also require us to engage in the difficult task of confronting personal/systemic dysfunction. Big matters or even small matters, no one likes to do this. ‘Someone else will handle it,’ ‘This is too complicated,’ or ‘Just wait a bit and it will hopefully go away,’ are some of the default reasons for not getting involved. Our reticence to tackle “tough stuff” is even more apparent when the stakes are raised and we are faced with the choice of whether or not to confront serious deviance and evil.

The trio of virtues in the virtrio illustration above (perseverance, honesty, and courage) are essential for dealing with life’s challenges. These three qualities are core parts of “high-virtue humans”—virtrios humans—who excel in moral goodness. They are especially necessary when we encounter evil in all of its forms, be they blatant or disguised.

Evil is not the opposite of good but the distortion of good.
Sadly, distorted forms of good may go undetected for a long time.
Resilient virtue is needed to confront the many facets of such evil.

Resilient Evil and Resilient Virtue
Evil is also resilient. One recent example of resilient evil is the long-term fraud promulgated by Bernie Madoff. All the “good” he was doing to benefit investors-colleagues was actually faked. The deception has come back to haunt the business and banking sectors, university endowment programs, and many private citizens across the world. Unfortunately Madoff’s scheme was both resilient and malignant, a horrific combination.

Contrast Madoff’s despicable behavior to the praiseworthy actions of Harry Markopolos. Markopolos and his colleagues spent 12 years tracking Madoff, convinced about the illegitimacy of his money-making scheme. They persevered. They sought transparency (honesty). They were courageous. They were virtrios humans whose skills and resilient virtue, in spite of being ignored for years, eventually helped to expose the evil.

As we have seen in the previous entries, resilient people have inner strength, good social support, and a sense of purpose and/or trust in God. These qualities have been essential for several of us as we have confronted a grievous situation within parts of the international Christian community that has striking similarities to the Madoff case: major fraud. We have all had to muster plenty of virtrio (perseverance, honesty, and courage) in the face of a malicious “trimangle” of corruption (collusion, cover-ups, and cowardice). As the author of Hebrews says, ‘God hates wickedness just as much as He loves virtue’ (Hebrews 1:9, Jerusalem Bible). Created in His image, the same disdain for evil and passion for good is true for us.

Trimangle: A trio of core evils.

We as a group have learned that prudently confronting trimangles (unmasking/exposing/reproving darkness, as commanded in Ephesians 5:11) is not without its risks. Defamation, dismissals, and distress historically accompany the actions of virtrios humans. We have also learned that the levels of risk and fear are not the main criteria for determining whether an action is right or wrong. Do not be afraid to go public as you stand up for what is right, Christ says. For there is nothing hidden that will not be revealed. Do not fear intimidation, discrediting, loss of livelihood, and even loss of life. Your task is to be true, not popular. I will take care of you. (Matthew 10 and Luke 6, paraphrases from The Message).

Resilient virtue: perseverance, honesty, and courage
prevails against
Resilient corruption: collusion, cover-ups, and cowardice.

Governments have an important responsibility in matters that involve major deviance/evil. So also do virtrios humans in civil society (e.g., media, regulatory bodies, organizations) and the Christian community (church, mission agencies). All three entities have a major and often overlapping responsibility to deal transparently and skillfully with trimangles. The exploitation of people (corruption) via joint deception (collusion), distortions of facts (cover-ups), and avoidance of responsibility (cowardice) do not simply go away on their own. They are resilient too. The world will not be any more safe—or virtuous-- until virtrios people act to make it so.

Trust God.
Stay the course.
May you espouse virtue and expose evil.

Quotes, Notes, and More
1. Conference. Here is a summary of a presentation that we have proposed. It complements the resiliency theme from last year’s Mental Health and Missions Conference (19-22 November 2009). The title is Future Directions for Member Care: Going and Growing as Resilient Practitioners.

“What lies ahead for the member care field, and indeed for our world at large? In this presentation we discuss future challenges and opportunities for member care. The field needs “good learners-practitioners” who are growing in their character (virtues and resilience) and competency (skills and knowledge). These folks need to be willing to “cross sectors” (e.g., international health and humanitarian sectors), cross disciplines (e.g., human resources, management), and “cross deserts” (e.g., internal journeys of faith and struggle) in order to work effectively in unstable locations often permeated with conflict and calamity. These diverse, resilient, member care workers will have clear ethical commitments as they provide/develop quality services to mission/aid personnel in many cultural settings.”

2. Book. Here is another brief quote is from John Fawcett’s edited book, Stress and Trauma Handbook: Strategies for Flourishing in Demanding Environments (2003—click here to see a book review).

“Faith-driven or secular, the workers who bring aid to individuals, families and communities are the living embodiment of a human conviction that wrongs not only must be righted, but they can be righted." (p. 1).

3. Video. Have a look at this short photo report from the World Health Organization (WHO)—2009 Year in Review: Key Health Issues. The 12 photos and brief descriptions reflect some of the concerted efforts of humanity via the WHO to tackle major health issues facing the world. Other examples of personal stories and international media reports are listed on the Media that Matters section of our Member Caravan website.

4. Tool. How courageous are you? Consider this question via Matthew 10: 24-33. Christ addresses the importance for his followers to speak the truth openly and to identify with Him publicly. Have a look and give some examples where you have had to deal with fear and act with courage.

**Don’t be afraid:
a. of being discredited and maligned (v. 26)
b. of being killed (v. 28)
c. of being undervalued and overlooked (v. 31).

**Be courageous:
a. by confessing Christ without waver (v. 32)
b. by loving Christ more than anyone (37)
c. by taking up our cross and giving your life for Christ (38,39).

5. Music. Two songs by Dougie MacLean.

Ready for the Storm. Dougie is an incredible folk musician from Scotland whose songs are creative, beautiful, and inspirational. He is joined by Kathy Mattea, another gifted musician, and others in this video version of the song, circa 1995/1996.

No No No by Dougie is a powerful call to confront those who exploit people. To listen you must purchase/download this song on the artist’s site, for about one dollar. I think it is really worth it, as is the 1990 album on which it first appeared, Whitewash.

Reflection and Discussion
1. Give an example of a vitrios human that you know. Which virtues contribute to his/her resiliency?

2. How are virtues and developing virtues related to the fruits of the Spirit and walking in the Sprit (see Galatians 5:22-25)?
3. Discuss the notion of trimangles in terms of your personal or work experience.

4. Is resilient virtue always stronger than resilient evil?

5. Which of the above “notes, quotes, and more” are the most meaningful for you and why?

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