A moral leader

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Moral leadership is often confused with moralizing, in other words, with the annoying admonishments of others that one has to live a righteous life. However, if it were so, mankind would not have, figuratively speaking, “climbed down the tree” and civilization would not have been possible, because forced virtues are short-lived, lasting only as long as they are forced.

A true moral leader is first and foremost a witness: one who embodies values in which his or her belief in their justice is unwavering, and who, through his or her actions, invites others to be convinced of them as well. In doing so, he does not deprive those people of freedom, does not “drive humanity to happiness with an iron hand” as the Bolsheviks did. Rather, paraphrasing the priests of the Second Vatican Council, it can be said: “the truth of life is won by the strength of truth itself”.

Of utmost importance, a moral leader must also serve other people, society, and mankind. There is even a special prayer: “‘Lord, make me a candle: let me burn, so that others may not live in darkness”. In our secularized times political and public leaders sometimes fall over themselves to be the first at everything. But biblical logic states “who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all”. Once could even formulate another “Murphy’s law”: “The shortest path to achieving first place is to inwardly renounce it and serve others”.

A moral leader earnestly interprets the words of Vasyl Stus: “One must live in such a way that doves shall perch on one’s shoulders”. Such an attitude completely precludes hostile rivalry and destruction of inter-human relations. Otherwise, the best a person can lay claim to is a high-ranking title. A dove will only sit on the shoulder of a good person, from whom there is no threat, and from whose entire being only love emanates. So it has been for all time – whether at the time that ancient Kyivan sages sat under an oak tree deciding the fate of the people, or now, when Ukrainians of all confessions and ethnicities unanimously recognize, say, Patriarch Lubomyr Cardinal Husar as the moral authority of Ukraine. For the dove will eat bread crumbs out of this man’s very hand.

A moral leader almost always goes against the tide, because he or she does not give in to evil and is willing to sacrifice. But since the beginning of time, evil has opened its gates wide to people, enticing them to enter. Often, figureheads will appear on the waves of national revolutions as though leading victory marches through the gates of oppression. However those victories inevitably become Pyrrhic ones, and illusions scatter on the wind.

This is why it is so important to never forget the words of yet another Ukrainian Moral Leader, Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky: “Remember, that nothing useful can be achieved for ones people through actions that are counter to the laws of God”.

Myroslav Marynovych, Vice Rector for University Mission, UCU

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