The Personalist Project

Accessed on October 19, 2020 - 8:59:06

The fear of the slave

Katie van Schaijik, May 27, 2016

Ever alert in my reading to items that highlight and clarify the meaning and implications of the master/slave dynamic, I pounced on one this morning, in St. Faustina's Diary. She is on retreat as she writes.

The great majesty of God which pervaded me today and still pervades me awoke in me a great fear, but a fear filled with respect, and not the fear of a slave, which is quite different from the fear of respect. This fear animated by respect arose in my heart today because of love and the knowledge of the greatness of God, and that is a great joy to the soul. The soul trembles before the smallest offense against God; but that does not trouble or darken its happiness. There, where love is in charge, all is well.

"The fear of the slave" is the fear of power and punishment and abandonment. "Please don't hurt me." It's a groveling fear, unworthy of mature human persons. But most of us are afflicted with it to one degree or another. Some of us cope with it by becoming the one feared, the "master," who makes others afraid.

Love is the opposite. The one who has it most induces others not to grovel, but to stand up.

"I no longer call you slaves, but friends."

I've been listening to the audio version of Witness to Hope, and was reminded recently of the first precedent-breaking incident of John Paul II's papacy. Traditionally, the new Pope sits on a "throne," while all the Cardinals successively kiss his ring in a gesture of reverence and obedience. John Paul II declined the throne. "I receive my brothers standing."