Obedience – The Virtuous Human

Obedience – The Virtuous Human

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?

Correct Obedience

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.

This post is part of The Virtuous Human Series. There will be many articles in this series — make sure you subscribe so you don’t miss a thing!

Posted by in Character Building | August 4, 2008 | Digg | Del.icio.us | Stumble | Print | 4 comments

  • http://ourbestversion.com Ari Koinuma

    Good point. I think this point gets lost most of the time, at least here in US. We focus so much on leaders. Creating leaders, training leaders, etc. But followers have their virtues also. There are good followers and bad followers. Bad ones obviously make the work of leaders harder — sometimes rendering them ineffective. In a team with leaders and followers, both parties can contribute equally (though equality is not necessary) to make the team collaboration a success.

    There is an art to being a good follower.


  • http://www.self-improvement-journey.com Liz

    II think you make quite a few good points here, that have “improved” my way of thinking about obedience.
    Adolf Hitler is quoted as saying, “Obedience is the first milestone on the road to freedom.” Well, given the source, being obedient does sound negative. You have successfully stated when and where being obedient is neccessary (such as providing harmony in the family as well as stability / productivity in the work environment).
    Ari makes a good comment, too, when stating that equality is not neccessary. Just to add to that, nor do I think equality should be mandatory.

  • http://www.alexshalman.com Alex Shalman

    At one point I didn’t think obedience was even considered a virtue. However, it does have it’s ups and downs. Just like anything in life, it’s beneficial when used consciously!

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