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Viewpoints

I have been hearing a lot of leadership say they want to change things. They say we need to change in order to survive, to compete, to grow. But if you listen carefully you will notice they do not say specifically “what” they want to change, or “how” they want to change. They do not acknowledge the price they are willing to pay in order to make the changes they recommend. And they do not want to make the risk associated with the changes they say we all need to make. It is almost as if they believe that they can say it and everyone, everywhere will simply say “Yes” and willingly, even enthusiastically make the changes they in their great wisdom have suggested. They seem to deny that there is any cost involved. They seem to fail to realize why people resist change. Or perhaps they never learned the maxim I have had to live with throughout my professional career. It was taught to me in graduate school and continues to be (perhaps eternally) true: “Those most invested in the way things are, are least inclined to embrace or accept change.”

It is foolish to think that people will change their hearts, minds, expectations, or desires simply because someone said so. It is ridiculous to believe that change will come without cost. And it is ludicrous to think that everyone will accept that “their way” may not be the best or most effective way, especially if at one time previously “their way” was the most effective. After all, it still works for them.

The truth is that in business, institutions, social services, and even at home things do need to change and they need to change regularly, even frequently. Many times we do not notice or resist the changes since we are the ones making them as we go along. It does not bother us too much because many of the changes are not massive, life-changing, pattern altering, mind-changing events. When babies leave the breast or bottle, they learn to eat. Pre-school leads to kindergarten which in turn leads to elementary, and middle, high school etc. Each step difficult, each requiring adjustment and growth, adaptation and work in assimilating the change. And most of us like to make things better if and when we can. But at some point in our self-directing adult lives we become comfortable with ourselves, our patterns and practices. And subtle influences change our focus and priorities. We cease to desire to become and we focus our attention on our comfort. Familiarity becomes more important than purpose. Control becomes more important than product. Self-significance becomes more important than group or common good. That is when we slide into sloth and irrelevance, ineffectiveness and eventual eradication.

Finally it is not really the “stuff” (the activities, procedures, forms, or products) changing that bothers most folks. (Who uses 8-track tapes anymore? Who does not own if not use to its fullest capacity a cell phone?) No, what matters to us in changing times and circumstances, in making changes to the way we do things is our sense of ability and our feeling of place in those changes. We do not want to change if it means we no longer have worth, or if the things we value lose their meaning. So perhaps what we need to change first, is the well being and “place” for each person in the organization. Perhaps we need to establish “community” well being as well as personal wellbeing so that one benefits the other and together both can change and grow. Maybe if I feel that I am not forgotten or de-valued, if I feel that my needs are not being discarded in favor of the needs of someone else, and if I can increase my concern for other’s wellbeing as well as my own, and trust the mutuality of concern, well maybe then I won’t have to fear change and may even support and participate in it for the good of all.

In the final analysis it will not be the “party” calling for change that will make things better. What will save our institutions, our communities and our world will be caring for one another and together working toward the common goals. Changes are just steps in that process and most would be happy to take a step rather than wallow in misery. We just need to see what specific step to take and have a reasonable idea of what the effect of that step will be.

What do you think?

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This week the trial of Casey Anthony was concluded. The verdict: “Not Guilty”. The uproar over this result is loud and sweeping. The passionate upset and debate have been likened to the acquittal of OJ Simpson who was also acquitted of murder. It is a case study of the human condition, of mass pressure, emotion and response.

On one hand we in the United States place a great value upon justice and the rule of law. We cry out for it. We demand it. We expect it and defend it. The concept of justice we consider essential to the wellbeing of self and society. Especially in the care of children, even in prisons the lowest regarded are those who harm our young. This value expectation and hope is good.

On the other hand there are times when our perceptions of justice are skewed. Sometimes passion drives us more than reason. Sometimes emotion is more important than fact. We face a danger that in our pursuit of noble justice we may run over it in a headlong rush to satisfy our passions, judgments, or perception of justice that may or may not be accurate.

How many times have we questioned our leaders, our courts and juries about the decisions they make and the actions they take?  How many times have we allowed the media or the plethora of commentators determine our opinions for us? How many times have we taken positions with less than all the available facts in our knowledge base? Who was it that said “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing”? Only the jury knows what happened in their deliberations. There seems to be a presumption of guilt and a will to undermine our judicial system, mistrusting the jury and process. There is a dangerous presumption of guilt.

The challenge for Christ followers is not to get swept up in the fervor, to mediate the passion and to be faithful at all times, when things go our way, and especially when they don’t. Our judicial system and until recent times our society is based upon another principle that stands beside our value for justice. That value is “innocent until proven guilty”. Our forefathers felt it best that we let a few guilty go free rather than wrongly convict or penalize the innocent. People of good sense and faithful heart need to be advisors of wisdom and guidance to moderation and balance of values. It is up to the faithful to help prevent the society running headlong into chaos. Today one’s character may be challenged in the in the court of public opinion that person can be ruined for life. Has anyone considered what happens for the rest of their lives? Does anyone consider the witness they make in their passion and outburst?

There is a need for us to trust God with the true and pure upholding of justice accountability and compassion. There is a call for us to be civil with one another always and everywhere and not to lose control of our emotions, our actions, or our good sense. What is true is this, we will not always agree with what happens. We will not like every decision. But we are always and everywhere on display. Our words and actions reveal the truth of our being and values to all who observe us. Perhaps we should take care before we bluster about. Maybe we should remember our values before we challenge. And it might be a good idea to gather all the information we can from all sides before we decide?