We previously looked at the importance of learning to withdraw periodically so we can show up at our best.

Today we look at a second type of withdrawal which gives us the ability to compose ourselves in the moment.

“The cultivation of awareness gives one the basis for detachment, the ability to stand aside and see oneself in perspective in the context of one’s own experience, amidst the ever present dangers, threats, and alarms,” writes Robert Greenleaf in The Servant as Leader.  “Then one sees one’s own peculiar assortment of obligations and responsibilities in a way that permits one to sort out the urgent from the important and perhaps deal with the important.”

This ability to see the big picture and then choose where to focus is key for our overall success.

“The ability to withdraw and reorient oneself, if only for a moment, presumes that one has learned the art of systematic neglect, to sort out the more important from the less important—and the important from the urgent—and attend to the more important, even though there may be penalties and censure for the neglect of something else,” Robert observes.

In the heat of the moment when the circumstances demand a decision, we can learn to reorient ourselves.  We stay with conscious analysis as far as it will carry us, “and then withdraw, release the analytical pressure, if only for a moment, in full confidence that a resolving insight will come,” writes Robert.  “The ability to do this is the essential structural dynamic of leadership.” 

Developing this ability gives us confidence.  “Is there any other way, in the turbulent world of affairs (including the typical home), for one to maintain serenity in the face of uncertainty?” asks Robert.

Robert then shares one of the great stories of the human spirit about Jesus and the woman accused of adultery.  “Jesus is a leader; he has a goal—to bring more compassion into the lives of people. In this scene the woman is cast down before him by the mob that is challenging Jesus’s leadership. They cry, ‘The law says she shall be stoned, what do you say?’ 

“Jesus must make a decision, he must give the right answer, right in the situation, and one that sustains his leadership toward his goal. The situation is deliberately stressed by his challengers. What does he do? He sits there writing in the sand—a withdrawal device.  In the pressure of the moment, having assessed the situation rationally, he assumes the attitude of withdrawal that will allow creative insight to function. 

“He could have taken another course; he could have regaled the mob with rational arguments about the superiority of compassion over torture.  A good logical argument can be made for it.  What would the result have been had he taken that course? He did not choose to do that. He chose instead to withdraw and cut the stress—right in the event itself—in order to open his awareness to creative insight.  

“Let him that is without sin among you cast the first stone.” 


Reflection:  Reflect on a time when there was pressure to make a decision.  How did I respond?  

Action:  Intentionally pause today prior to making a decision.

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