This article is part of The Virtuous Human Series.
Obedience — Willingness to obey, to be controlled when necessary, to carry out orders.
“There is no shame in taking orders from those who themselves have learned to obey.”
~William Edward Forster
There exists a special dynamic between a master-servant, leader-follower, and dominant-submissive. In order to be effective at wielding power one must have a clear understanding of what it’s like have to none.
It’s clear, to me, that the world would not be built if there were no followers. Too many chiefs and not enough Indians would ultimately disable the ability to have a joint venture, or cooperative progress.
History has shown that any virtue could be used or abused. Obedience is no different. It can be put to proper use to improve ones condition and contribute to the world or exploited for the wrong ideals.
The Dangers of Obedience
The virtue of obedience does not come without a price. Blind obedience has caused many deaths, the fall of empires, and much pain and suffering.
Take the Holocaust as an example. Some Nazis, like Hitler and Eichman, were complete monsters, as were many of the Nazi soldiers. Others were people with docile minds, too weak-minded to use their free will to make a choice that embraces morality.
Our definition of obedience clearly states to be controlled when necessary. This is a judgment call. How could one brother join the Nazi party, while another help the Jewish people to escape certain death? How can one southern landowner captivate and exploit the African people for slavery while another aids their journey to freedom?
Obedience is proper when it involves the greater good of the world, while upholding a strong moral character. Obedience can be correct in the harmony of a construction site, the workability of a corporation, and the agreeableness of a family unit.
This same obedience is what creates things like the American constitution, democracy, and peace. A good leader is obedient to the greatest good of his subordinates and is a slave to doing what’s right. In this way, may you also find it within yourself to be obedient, when the time and place serves the greatest good of all.