Growing as a process for change

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By Bob Docter –

We have a new territorial commander who will look at things from a different angle—exploring, determining the quality of our impact and facilitating change in the “whole” of the Western Territory. I admire this orientation.  

What about you? Are you still growing? Still learning? Willing to evaluate your interpersonal style?

Are you bound by dogma and social norms in support of goals long forgotten?

Are you an effective change agent?

How’s your self-image? Got a lot of “can’ts” in there? Where do you live—in the past, the future or right now—in the immediate moment?

Growing involves a process of change. Anything that can change will experience growth in some form or another—countries change, populations change, institutions change, individuals change. Some change is rapid, like the impact of the computer on the world; some change is very slow, often affected by the weight of tradition.

The change process is nonlinear. Its timing is somewhat disorderly and unpredictable. A single input does not necessarily result in a predictive output. Timing counts. That same input at a different time may achieve a different result. Under the right circumstances one match can initiate a weeklong conflagration involving thousands of people, or fail to ignite a single prepared campfire. The difference stems from the phrase “under the right circumstances.”

Institutional change is often stimulated by a single change agent who, through the power of his or her belief system, perception of reality, and personality, senses a moment of opportunity. Then, with the dynamism and power of a committed advocate, the change is ignited. William Booth, who with his wife Catherine founded The Salvation Army, was such a personality. He believed poverty was an affront to God, built on a foundation of unlove. His linking of social and spiritual issues changed the role and function of the church and successfully contributed to a change in other institutions. This brought about an extensive modification of the class system that resulted in societal change.

Abraham Lincoln both resisted and facilitated change. He resisted change in his commitment to maintain the integrity of the Union, and, with his Emancipation Proclamation, achieved a change of America’s understanding of what it means to be human.

The shelf life of the change is a function of both the willingness of those involved to engage in precise and painful fine-tuning of the change, and acceptance by the culture in the direction it is taking. While physical growth results in larger size, size alone does not guarantee greater intellect, improved interpersonal skills, or what the culture would call a “mature” lifestyle.  

God gives us the resources we need to achieve levels of maturity appropriate to our physical, mental, social, emotional and spiritual development. “Life won’t let us settle down to nothingness,” missionary E. Stanley Jones once said. We sense an out-of-balance condition—the push-pull of an innate drive toward maturity. These resources are at our disposal, but we must exercise the will to use them. The will to be mature must be at the center of our maturity. Its presence is a prime indicator of our on-going, ever-changing drive—a drive we call “growing.”

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