17.1 The Parker Palmer lines I think about often and thought about again today, which energized and soothed me in a moment that I needed it
“We are in a society that is obsessed with effectiveness, with outcomes, with results. And efficiency is very much attached to that, which Courtney wisely pointed to. I want to be clear that I’m not against effectiveness and getting results. I work hard on writing books, or on creating a non-profit, and on propagating programs through our 220 facilitators around the country. I want that work to be effective, just as everyone in this room wants to be effective.
But I am very clear, for myself, that the tighter we cling to the norm of effectiveness, the smaller and smaller tasks we’re going to take on, because they’re the only ones with which you can be effective. But there has to be a standard that trumps effectiveness. And I have a word that I use for myself that helps me walk this path, and that’s the word “faithfulness.” Faithfulness has to trump effectiveness. And I don’t mean anything high and mighty about that. Remember, I’m the guy that God kicked out of seminary.
By faithfulness, I mean, am I being faithful to my own gifts? Am I being faithful to the needs I see around me within my reach? And am I being faithful to those points at which my gifts might intersect those needs in some life-giving way? At age 75, I think about my mortality more than I did when I was 35 or 45. And one of the things that’s very, very clear to me is that when I’m drawing my last breath, I will not be asking, “Did I sell enough books? Did I get enough good enough reviews? What do the numbers look like?” You know?
I’m going to be asking, given my limitations, given my fallibilities, cutting myself a lot of slack for my failure to do so, “Did I use my limited lifetime to show up fully as I knew how with what I’ve got?” That’s what I call faithfulness. And I think it’s a matter of framing what we’re doing as well as those particular practices like walking in the woods, like silence, like reading poetry, that can bring us back to those points that you might call true north.”