11 DISOBEDIENCE: A Threat to Mental Health - Fr Mukti Clarence, SJ

posted Oct 3, 2018, 9:51 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Oct 3, 2018, 9:52 AM ]
The vow of obedience has become an issue of great concern these days. Though enough reflection has gone into a detailed commentary on the topic, nevertheless, when it touches the individual core, one realises how challenging this discipline is. If one does a survey of religious congregations and dioceses, one will realise that there are a few cases of sheer disobedience. Needless to say, it is a virus, and if it is not treated, there will be a serious repercussion.

Here, my main argument is that disobedience in religious congregations and dioceses is a threat to mental health. Mental health is defined as a state of well-being, in which every individual realises his/her own potential, copes with the normal stresses of life, works productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his/her community/life. Disobedience is a threat to mental health, because both the parties involved, be it superior or subject, do not feel good encountering such situations in which disobedience occurs, where one appoints stating, "After prayerful reflection and deliberation, I appoint you..." and the other says, "I won't".

In these circumstances, there is no doubt that the superiors start feeling that their words are not respected. They experience low self-esteem, since their words were not received; they get upset, fidgeting and jittery. They feel that, as superiors, they have an image to project, and according to that image, everyone should comply with their decisions/discernment. After hearing "No", they go through restlessness to the extent of having sleepless nights and self-doubts. They try to put their emotion and strength together to fix the matter. They become more emotional rather than rational or spiritual. Sure enough, these emotions and symptoms are not considered positive or good for mental health.

On the other hand, the subjects, the ones who said "No" to their superiors go through a feeling of abandonment. They ponder on how they have been treated, and how their appointment could be so contrary to their desire. They think that they are not understood, and their contribution is not recognised. They become emotionally wounded, and try to justify their point. At times, they may malign the superior's image. They consider themselves the victim of high-handedness. Sometimes, because of such negative and bitter feelings, they choose to change the province/diocese, or leave the congregation/diocese.

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