Change Must Come From Within

“We want change!” “Something has to change now!”

Those are the words I have heard over and over again after the Parkland shooting on Valentine’s Day. Whether it was the father of a fourteen-year-old girl who was brutally murdered on school grounds, a lawmaker who once again felt impotent because of political pressure, an ex-law enforcement agent who was moved to tears by the futility of our repeating cycle of violence, or any number of my friends on social media, everyone has been screaming for change.

However, we don’t have to look very far into our past to see that screaming doesn’t work and that outrage isn’t enough to affect change. For that, something more is needed.

Where Does Change Come From?

Change always comes from within.

This is easy to understand on a personal level. No one can change a person from the outside. They may be able to influence that person but never change him or her. The person must want to change and the change must come from within.

The same is true about religion. Many people have stood outside of religion and yelled, wanting religion to change, but only those who belong to the churches, temples, and synagogues have the power to influence religion directly. Like in the individual example, outsiders may influence, but only insiders can directly affect change.

Where is the Inside?

Therefore, if we truly want to change the gun laws and gun culture in this country, we must ask ourselves: Where is the inside?

As I see it, the inside starts with the gun owners and lobbying groups. They could change this if they wanted to, but shouting at them or trying to manipulate them from the outside won’t work. The only people who can influence this group are people who are already on the inside, such as responsible gun owners and lobbyists.

When a gun owner speaks up and says that weapons of war don’t belong on our streets, other gun owners are more likely to listen.

The other inside is political. As I see it, there are two possible options. Join the political party in power, participate in their primaries, influence their policy debates, and then vote for the people who are most likely to move on this issue, or create a stronger movement on the other side and vote out the people who don’t want to make any changes. Either way, the change will have to come from within the political establishment and for that to happen, people need to participate.

What Changes Need to Be Made?

I don’t have all the answers when it comes to the question of what changes need to be made. It seems like this problem requires massive action on all fronts, including gun regulations, mental health policies, and increases in security. I have lived in the USA since 2010 and have been devastated time and time again by the senselessness and regularity of mass casualty events at the hands of lone gunmen with high capacity weapons.

What is clear to me is that a new approach is needed. Outrage on social media, screaming for change, and alienating and de-humanizing people who don’t agree with our proposed changes are all tactics that haven’t worked.

The changes that need to happen will only come from within and while people refuse to participate in the political process (a recent study in my home state of Texas showed that only 47% of the voting age population voted in 2016) or civic dialogue (the same study showed that only 1% of Texans speak about politics and religion to their friends, family and neighbors), nothing will change.

Participate, Participate, Participate

If you are one of the people wishing, hoping, and screaming for change, then all I can advise you to do is participate.

Be a part of the process.

Be the within from where the change happens.

Gudjon Bergmann
Interfaith Minister, Author, Speaker and Founder of Harmony Interfaith Initiative

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Pictures: CC0 License

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