“Certain offices in human society require the officeholder to be loved and feared of men.”

Here is a little Patristiblogger offering for your midday consideration.

This morning a priest friend and I were talking about the problems of leadership and being hated, loved, or feared.

Classic question: Is it better to be loved or feared?

Machiavelli had his answer, and you can imagine what it was and why he wrote it.

St. Augustine of Hippo, however, tackled this problem in Book 10 of The Confessions.

While remaining a realist, and writing as a Catholic bishop, Augustine has a different take.  He asks, what is the object of the love the subject has, and the object of the fear?

Here is an excerpt of Confessiones 10.36.59.  Shall we hear it?  A little Latin with your English pony:

sed numquid, domine, qui solus sine typho dominaris, quia solus verus dominus es, qui non habes dominum, numquid hoc quoque tertium temptationis genus cessavit a me aut cessare in hac tota vita potest, timeri et amari velle ab hominibus, non propter aliud sed ut inde sit gaudium quod non est gaudium? misera vita est et foeda iactantia; hinc fit vel maxime non amare te nec caste timere te, ideoque tu superbis resistis, humilibus autem das gratiam, et intonas super ambitiones saeculi, et contremunt fundamenta montium. itaque nobis, quoniam propter quaedam humanae societatis officia necessarium est amari et timeri ab hominibus, instat adversarius verae beatitudinis nostrae, ubique spargens in laqueis `euge! euge!’ ut, dum avide conligimus, incaute capiamur et a veritate tua gaudium nostrum deponamus atque in hominum fallacia ponamus, libeatque nos amari et timeri non propter te sed pro te, atque isto modo sui similes factos secum habeat, non ad concordiam caritatis sed ad consortium supplicii, qui statuit sedem suam ponere in aquilone, ut te perversa et distorta via imitanti tenebrosi frigidique servirent. nos autem, domine, pusillus grex tuus ecce sumus, tu nos posside. praetende alas tuas, et fugiamus sub eas. gloria nostra tu esto; propter te amemur et verbum tuum timeatur in nobis. qui laudari vult ab hominibus vituperante te, non defendetur ab hominibus iudicante te nec eripietur damnante te. cum autem non peccator laudatur in desideriis animae suae, nec qui iniqua gerit benedicetur, sed laudatur homo propter aliquod donum quod dedisti ei, at ille plus gaudet sibi laudari se quam ipsum donum habere unde laudatur, etiam iste te vituperante laudatur, et melior iam ille qui laudavit quam iste qui laudatus est. illi enim placuit in homine donum dei, huic amplius placuit donum hominis quam dei.

59. But, O Lord–thou who alone reignest without pride, because thou alone art the true Lord, who hast no Lord–has this third kind of temptation left me, or can it leave me during this life: the desire to be feared and loved of men, with no other view than that I may find in it a joy that is no joy? It is, rather, a wretched life and an unseemly ostentation. It is a special reason why we do not love thee, nor devotedly fear thee. Therefore “thou resistest the proud but givest grace to the humble.” [1 Peter 5:5] Thou thunderest down on the ambitious designs of the world, and “the foundations of the hills” tremble. [Cf. Ps. 18:7, 13] And yet certain offices in human society require the officeholder to be loved and feared of men, and through this the adversary of our true blessedness presses hard upon us, scattering everywhere his snares of “well done, well done”; so that while we are eagerly picking them up, we may be caught unawares and split off our joy from thy truth and fix it on the deceits of men. In this way we come to take pleasure in being loved and feared, not for thy sake but in thy stead. By such means as this, the adversary makes men like himself, that he may have them as his own, not in the harmony of love, but in the fellowship of punishment–the one who aspired to exalt his throne in the north, [Cf. Isa. 14:12-14] that in the darkness and the cold men might have to serve him, mimicking thee in perverse and distorted ways. But see, O Lord, we are thy little flock. Possess us, stretch thy wings above us, and let us take refuge under them. Be thou our glory; let us be loved for thy sake, and let thy word be feared in us. Those who desire to be commended by the men whom thou condemnest will not be defended by men when thou judgest, nor will they be delivered when thou dost condemn them. But when–not as a sinner is praised in the wicked desires of his soul nor when the unrighteous man is blessed in his unrighteousness–a man is praised for some gift that thou hast given him, and he is more gratified at the praise for himself than because he possesses the gift for which he is praised, such a one is praised while thou dost condemn him. In such a case the one who praised is truly better than the one who was praised. For the gift of God in man was pleasing to the one, while the other was better pleased with the gift of man than with the gift of God.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Jack Regan says:

    This is an area which really interests me. Obviously it’s better to get people to do things because they love you, but there are definitely times when fear is necessary. When a man walks down a street with a machete, for instance and armed police draw their weapons for instance, that’s necessary.

    I wonder how useful a tool fear is though in terms of drawing people closer to Christ. Augustine had some views on this elsewhere expressed that even the most radical Catholics wouldn’t stand next to today (e.g. torture is okay!!) and I think it’s a problem of motive. Christ is after a genuine change of heart. You can get people to do pretty much anything by putting a gun to their heads, but it doesn’t bring about an action which deserves genuine merit. Drawing hearts to Christ requires love.

    St. Paul’s exhortation that nothing has value without love clearly doesn’t extend to the merely temporal emergencies. Those armed police, for instance, do good even though fear is their main tool, but in terms of changing hearts, it must be love…


  2. Supertradmum says:

    I think moderns misunderstand fear. Would we not really fear the loss of God’s Love and the gaining of eternal damnation if we believed this was possible? Of course, imperfect contrition is based on the fear of punishment. but what real parent does not know that both love and fear go hand in hand? Does not a toddler not touch the stove after being burnt once? That is a fear of being burnt. Does not a child fear the loss of approval of a parent or beloved teacher and so try harder?

    We have lost these sensibilities for many reasons, not the least that we no longer as a nation or even as Catholics believe in hierarchies. If all people are the same, there is no fear.

    I am not God’s equal. He is my Father, my Creator. I love Him, but I also fear displeasing him

    I remember years ago a woman making a pie for her husband. She wanted it to be perfect. She is a superb pie maker. But, her desire to show him love with her art of baking created a bit of anxiety about the pie. I see nothing wrong with this.

    Too many people do not even think of pleasing another but themselves.

    Perfect love drives out fear, we are told, but it takes a journey, unless we have infused love, to get to that place.

    And, there is no love either.

  3. Supertradmum says:

    cut off sentence…there is no love without wanting to please God above all else.

  4. Bea says:

    Beautiful meditation:

    “For the gift of God in man was pleasing to the one, while the other was better pleased with the gift of man than with the gift of God.”

    All Bishops, Theologians, etc should keep a copy of the above quote of St. Augustine close to their person and read often when they are being praised. (all of us, for that matter) .

    This reminded me of the laurel wreath held over the head of a triumphant winner in ancient Rome.
    As they paraded throughout the streets of Rome the slave holding the wreath would repeatedly say:

    “Look behind you, remember you are only a man”) and “Memento mori” (“Remember (that you are) mortal”).[22]

  5. LisaP. says:

    Doesn’t this go along, kind of, with that “live your life in such a way that it would make no sense if God did not exist?” or however the quote goes?

    Lead men in such a way that if they don’t believe in God they won’t follow you?

    How, I wonder, does that apply to parenting. . . .

  6. Bea says:

    I think it means that our actions and the words with which we teach our children must match.
    If God is the center of our focus in life, the children will pick that up.
    Maybe I misunderstood your question, but it is more difficult to live up to God’s precepts than to teach anyone (our children, in this case) about it. Example is the more powerful teacher.

  7. votefassino24 says:

    Might I submit at this juncture a fairly astute conclusion drawn by Michael Scott, paper salesman and amatuer philosopher, on this very topic?

    “If I had to choose between having people love me or fear me … I would want people to fear how much they love me.”

  8. LisaP. says:

    Every day I discover more and more how much example matters. Sometimes I think it’s all that matters. And most days, it’s the last thing I think of when trying to be a good mom. One of those important things I just can’t keep in front of my eyes.

  9. KevinSymonds says:

    St. Teresa of Avila had some very harsh words for melancholics. She strongly recommended her prioresses to use fear with them so as to motivate melancholics. However, as great as she was, even St. Teresa had to capitulate to love. She moves from the language of fear to love in her “Book of the Foundations” and herself catches this movement! It is quite hilarious to read.

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