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Clues to making and accepting change

Clues to making and accepting change January 13, 2022

I understand change, having been a leading agent of change in family, major businesses, and churches. It’s often a daunting task and often creates chaos and loss if you don’t deal with it properly.

Mindset
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If you think getting people to changing from the King James Version of the Bible to another version is a difficulty bordering on mutiny, just try getting sales people to adopt a software program that they find alien to their way of thinking.

The challenges of change are endless

A juvenile who has had problems tries to join a youth group – people think their influence will ruin the members as if influence only goes one way, so they threaten to take their family from the church. Try changing the mission of a church – only some will follow. Try putting a different scarf on the communion table – this may sound amusing, but it’s true. Try justifying a very effective youth leader if their direct efforts don’t add people immediately to the church. Argh!

Try affecting corporate culture change with executives who have their way of managing employees and also dealing with sexual harassment. They see no need to change anything. Try restructuring a gaming company from sales to marketing driven and changing to creating very different business products. Climbing a mountain might be easier than any of these changes that I’ve had to create.

Read one of my experiences about how I successfully created change: Building Effective Organizations. A true story from the business trenches.

In university settings change is characterized as “change by death.” It isn’t that professors and administrators seek the demise of others, well, not most of them – it can be vicious – but they know change doesn’t happen until the people involved are replaced by others. It’s the same in social service organizations which can be very “political.”

Noting a pattern yet? Religions don’t tolerate change.

Before his conversion to Christianity, the Apostle Paul (Saul) went around persecuting and killing Christians. Jesus knew that the ruling class in Judaism and many of the followers would eventually kill him. They killed many of Jesus’ Apostles and followers as well.

Jesus lamented, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling.” Matthew 23:37 (NASB)

Some churches have difficulty even having women as leaders. Now think about acceptance of LGBTQIA+, which many believe is against everything they have ever known or was known for centuries. LGBTQIA+ acceptors oppose those against LGBTQIA+, believing opposition is no different than when the church demonized Mary Magdalene for centuries until theologians helped people understood she wasn’t the prostitute Jesus saved from stoning.

While the church falsely erects images such as Mary Magdalene as bad examples, the Bible interpreters are known to put their biases into translations, such as the late 20th Century appearance of the word homosexual in the Bible. There was no word for that kind of activity for the over 2000 years covered by the Bible and the thousand years since.

Change and the inability to change drives the fragmentation of the church. The US has over 1200 Christian denominations started by people who don’t see eye to eye.  Change is an incredibly difficult pursuit.

Jesus brought unacceptable change

Not everyone accepts change. Get used to endless questioning and resistance.

Jesus brought radical change to the Jews. For example, they were not allowed to associate with the Samaritans, who only believed the first five books of the Bible. Paul, citing oral tradition, said it was illegal for Jews to associate with others. But Jesus went into Samaria anyway. Also Jewish males weren’t allowed to speak to married women, but Jesus did. Neither of these prohibitions came from the Bible.

Jesus spoke to a woman in Samaria at Jacob’s Well. “Just then, Jesus’ disciples arrived and were shocked that he was talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?”” – John 4:27 (NASB) Jesus followers understood there would be change.

Vance Morgan quotes in his column, God is Change, so Get Used to Different, Jesus says that “If we’re going to have a question-and-answer session every time we do something you’re not used to, it’s going to be a very annoying time together for all of us.” On an almost daily basis, Jesus chooses to do and say things that stir up the waters. Simply because “we’ve always done it this way” is the greatest obstacle to needed change.””

Some basic principles to follow

People resist change most when it is forced on them. Instead, engage them in the process so that they understand and they make the change. This has been successful for me. People accept and feel responsible for change they initiate. I had a secretary who was often inattentive and performed poorly. I brought her into the process with an expanded role with more responsibility and her performance dramatically improved.

As an individual who has to cope with change, if you see things coming that will affect you, get engaged in it to understand and control it.

Forced change through laws is sometimes necessary, but acceptance can take a long time.

Walk with them on the journey

Talk with them and walk a mile in their shoes. This seems counterintuitive to leadership which often pushes change because it has to happen. Understand the obstacles that are in the way. Much resistance to change is attitude (led by experience, ties to others, and emotion). Attitudes have to change.

Creating change requires patience. Listen to the irrational thoughts and read between the lines to get to the root of their objection. Use conversation to discover obstacles in a non-threating and non-argumentative way. Help them remove obstacles through conversation and training, and by showing people how and giving them hands on experience. Eventually most people accept change even if they are uncomfortable for a while.

Don’t push those who are difficult and entrenched. Some people are never going to accept change. That’s reality. Don’t invest your time on them – it only makes them dig in their heels more and raise a stink with others. It’s called radical polarization and it’s endemic and prolific in this era of rapid change.

Also keep in mind that many people often fight against change but eventually accept it, especially as others around them accept it. If necessary let people leave. If they are rabble rousers or subversive then definitely encourage them to leave before they destroy the organization. Nothing makes people more dissatisfied than having to work with people who are endlessly fighting against them. They dread having to face another day at work. The end result of dissatisfied people is that they leave.

Things to consider when creating change

Walk the walk. Often people can’t accept things that are new and frightening to them. But if you demonstrate the new way for them and include them slowly in the process, it becomes less frightening and they eventually get accustomed to the change and accept it.

Understand that many people lack coping skills for change. Many simply are not adaptable. Never get angry with them or belittle them. Help them learn to be adaptable because the world changes constantly and this will really help them. There are helpful links in this post about this.

It may be right, or it may be wrong. Keep in mind that many will think that change is wrong. It isn’t our right to decide where others should be on their walk of faith. They are where they are. While many see religion as a list of fixed rules, and they may need that, for others it’s a greater reality about love of others. In many ways the change may be right, but not always right for the season of growth. For those for whom it’s right, as James said, “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” James 4:17 ESV

We can only control ourselves; we can’t control others. This has always been so.

Facing uncertainty

The more the financial system rattles people by excluding them by educational requirements or booting them out through job loss, and the more things change, the more people feel the system isn’t working for them, so the more they look for security. We can’t disparage people for this, it’s a problem we have to fix, and until then it’s a situation we have to learn to live with without hurting each other.

When your future is uncertain due to change, how do you keep moving forward? Oncologist and cancer survivor Shekinah Elmore shares how she embraced life after a rare genetic diagnosis: The Courage to Live with Radical Uncertainty – Ted Foundation

The ability to survive and thrive depends on how adaptable we are. Strength has little to do with it. So how do you cope with the tough moments? Three hard-won strategies for developing the capacity to brave adversity, overcome struggle and face whatever may come head-on with fortitude and grace: Three Secrets of Resilient People – Ted Foundation.

Take Home points

We’re not artists who can make change with a brush stroke. We work with people, and people are not easy in any way. Change isn’t something to be forced by just dropping it on people. We have to walk with them on the journey, especially when they become anxious and afraid, and give them a voice to express their concerns. Sometimes Bible verses can help some, but we can’t just drop verses on people.

Understand what troubles people about change, and help them remove those obstacles through conversation and training … and sometimes through experience. Realize that change is difficult for some and help them become more adaptable. Realize that change is impossible for some and pushing them can lead to anarchy. And realize that other’s acceptance helps people accept change and that eventually people accept it and adapt.

Understanding how to make change helps prevent division and loss. Putting our minds on the right things, as the Apostle Paul advised, helps everyone act in more civil ways.

You can learn how to create and manage change more effectively from inexpensive major university online courses:

 

Next in the series on happiness: Being able to control your destiny (AKA: change)

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Our answer is God. God’s answer is us. Together we make the world better.

–              Dorian

 

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