Struggling with Shadow

“Institutions prefer loyalists and ‘company men’ to prophets. We’re uncomfortable with people who point out our shadow or imperfections…”

The following is from Richard Rohr’s post (7/2/2019) on “Struggling with Shadow” and the role of prophets. Many of you know that I spent three decades in policing, most of it in leadership positions. Upon my retirement, I went back to school (seminary) and have served as a parish pastor since that time.

An important part of Christian-Jewish tradition is the role of prophets. The saying that a prophet is not unloved except in his or her own village is quite familiar and apropos.

Richard Rohr’s piece causes me to reflect and reminds me of my small, but prophetic, role. Rohr has been criticized for being too critical of the his faith tradition. So, too, have I with regard to police.

I will use Rohr’s post (in part) as my explanation (or defense)!


“The Hebrew prophets are in a category all their own. Within the canonical, sacred Scriptures of other world religions we do not find major texts that are largely critical of that very religion. Prophets can deeply love their tradition and profoundly criticize it at the same time, which is a very rare art form. In fact, it is their love of its depths that forces them to criticize their own religion. This is almost the hallmark of a prophet. Their deepest motivation is not negative but profoundly positive…

“The dualistic mind presumes that if you criticize something, you don’t love it. Wise prophets would say the opposite. Institutions prefer loyalists and ‘company men’ to prophets. We’re uncomfortable with people who point out our shadow or imperfections…

“Human consciousness does not emerge at any depth except through struggling with our shadow. It is in facing our own contradictions that we grow. It is in the struggle with our shadow self, with failure, or with wounding that we break into higher levels of consciousness. People who learn to expose, name, and still thrive inside contradictions are what I would call prophets.

“One of the most common complaints I hear from some Catholics is, ‘You criticize the Church too much.’ But criticizing the Church is just being faithful to the very clear pattern set by the prophets and Jesus (just read Matthew 23). I would not bother criticizing organized Christianity if I did not also love it. There is a negative criticism that is nothing but complaining and projecting. But there is a positive criticism that is all about hope and development. This is no small point, and such a difference must be taught. The charism of prophecy must be called forth…

“I suspect that we get the leaders who mirror what we have become… They are our shadow self for all to see, which is what the Hebrew prophets told Israel both before and during their painfully long exile… Yet, this was the very time when the Jewish people went deep enough to discover their prophetic voices—Isaiah, Jeremiah, and others—speaking truth to power, calling for justice…

“Those who allow themselves to be challenged and changed will be the new creative leaders of the next period of history after this purifying exile.”

I would not bother criticizing the police function if I did not also love it. Through experience, I know the outstanding contribution to our society for which police are capable. What do you think?

Find out more about Richard Rohr and his work HERE.


  1. “I would not bother criticizing the police function if I did not also love it.” Although I pale in your achievements in law enforcement, I believe that your criticism is very well placed. Isn’t that how positive change is effected? You were a very innovative administrator. As a retired law enforcement officer, I appreciate reading thoughts on policing!


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