Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Pathology of Those Working in the Nonprofit Sector (Some of Us?)

Entrepreneur Dan Pallotta offers a possible pathology of many who work in the nonprofit sector, a sector that includes many of us:

 Maybe people get into the compassion business full-time not because they're more compassionate than others but because they're codependent. Maybe the driving force is really inverted narcissism — an unhealthy and unexamined addiction to care-taking or to self-neglect.

Pallotta seems to be thinking of others in the nonprofit world and particularly educators. Still, it’s worth pondering why we do what we do, why we have made the financial choices we have. He writes:

I see people sacrificing their children's quality of life as they burn themselves out doing the jobs of two or three people, for wages that don't support the kind of life they really want. And while they lament it, they have no commitment to doing anything about it. There's a sense of pathological contentment.

If the work becomes more about satisfying a pathology than actually making progress, that's going to affect our progress. Thomas Merton, the Christian Mystic, wrote, "There is a pervasive form of contemporary violence to which the idealist fighting for peace by non-violent methods most easily succumbs: activism and overwork. . . . He concludes by saying, "to surrender oneself to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone with everything, is to succumb to violence...The frenzy of the activist neutralises his work for peace."

Here is the posting at the Harvard Business Review blog.



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