Our Relationship With Change

     Change is threatening to many people:
The past and present are comfortable to us because they are familiar.   Hindsight has allowed us to give an interpretation to the meaning of many of our experiences. Navigating creatively within rapid change is the challenge.  One of the numerous barriers to change can be found within many religious beliefs.  For some believers there is an authentic fear of growth if their evolution requires leaving behind certain cherished values and beliefs. Religious people can remain locked within a disciplined belief system that may have an unrecognized fear as its basis.  Resistance to change is understood by them as conviction.  Possessing an open mind that is willing to consider alternate points of view often represents an unacceptable shift in their thinking.  Jesus’ teachings, however, grew from three words, “Love your neighbor.”  If a world community is going to emerge, all religions will need to profess a flexibility they currently do not have.  To outside observers, Christianity itself is critically divided with its numerous belief systems.  “Love your neighbor” becomes lost in the many theological preferences.

     The challenge of change: Some changes appear as a right of passage from one phase of life to another, e.g., we learn to communicate easily with people who are most like us, we leave home for college or our first job, we relocate and assume responsibility for our own finances, we experience the “butterflies” as we walk down the aisle to be married, we face parenting, advance in our vocations and learn to adjust to our eventual retirement.  Other changes, however, require skills we may not have. Such changes may cause us to become stressed, frustrated and fearful.  Some examples: The need for two incomes robs us of quality time for our primary relationships.  The dynamic within our work environment may challenge us daily.  We find that the endless juggling act of new responsibilities affects our diet, our moments of intimacy, our exercise and our sleep habits.  Once we are home, we often anesthetize ourselves with everything from reality shows and sitcoms to the endless stream of sporting events and movies that sponge away our surplus hours. Substantive communication with our children, for example, is often compromised by their use of I-Pods, cell phones, video games and their exit to well-equipped bedrooms.  Their values and identities may still be undefined.  When close friends eventually part ways, young people who are unprepared for and inexperienced with rapid change may feel estranged, confused, alone and misunderstood.

     Change results from a chain of small decisions: When our values, focus and goals are diffused and ill defined, we often make decisions based on neediness, emotions, expectations and the need for immediate gratification.  It is unrealistic to imagine that we awaken one day and find ourselves faced with intolerable circumstances.  More often than not, we have created those circumstances incrementally, e.g., “It’s impossible for the family to eat together at 6:00 p.m. because . . . ” “Have you seen what is available in stores for young teenage girls to wear?”  “As long as the kids are not outside running around, I don’t care what they’re watching.”  “I’m so tired when I get home, cooking a well balanced meal is just impossible.”  “I spend more time and take more trips with my assistant than I do with my spouse.”  Every small decision has the power to enhance or erode our identities and life strategies.  The demands of rapid change may cause us to make hasty decisions.  Many of them are so minute; we seldom notice how unintentional many of them are.  As they accumulate, so do the number of “intolerable circumstances.”

     Change and the art of taking charge: The skill of learning how to negotiate change is where Spirituality becomes a powerful tool.  Without it, we easily become hopelessly mired in what happens when life is lived without specific values that provide guidance, e.g., Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.  (1) Frequently the mind and heart lack congruency.  For example, Heart: “This job will pay me big bucks!  Finally, I’ll have my head above water.”  Mind: “But your passion is working with people, not accounting.”  We need to listen to ourselves.  If our happiness and fulfillment are values we treasure, our shadow value may be our need to feel financially secure.  (2) We must develop an implicit trust that where we are is where we need to be for lessons to be learned.  Remember God is paradox: An act of betrayal is not life being cruel; it may be a stimulus to grow in another direction.  Misery may guide us to seek additional alternatives.  Our increased reliance on medication to heal or tolerate our psychic pain needs to be scrutinized carefully.  What are we masking?  We need to be careful that we are not personalizing the behavior of others or interpreting circumstances as though we are victims.  Further, we need to examine if we are nurturing an inability to forgive and cannot rise above psychic pain (hurts).  (3) We should examine ourselves for unrecognized sources of authority, e.g., our need to be needed or the importance of our image, e.g., beauty, clothing, thinness, financial prosperity, vocational status, certain types of friends or our expectations of God (praying to a divine vending machine).

     Change and mastery: We must remain very clear that part of our growth is to show up in situations without expectations, needs and solutions.  We must remain clear that our initial anxiety within new circumstances should be anticipated.  We must remain clear that we have the power to move mountains, a power we do not realize we have until we use it repeatedly.  We must remain clear that we have abilities and talents that far exceed everything we now know and, like in the previous statement, they will surface when they are required of us.  We must remain clear that fear comes from our survivor instinct; it signals our need to pause before taking risks.  We must remain clear that life is about giving and creating, not receiving, security and creature comforts.  When we experience rapid change confidently, while remembering our role as a giver and creator, we will enter circumstances equipped with all the assets we need.  We must not confuse our purpose for incarnating with the desires of our personality.

     Change as excitement: Frequently we content ourselves with the belief that an unthreatened life is God’s will.   Making no waves, staying in our caves, living the safe, financially secure life can appear very attractive to some people, even being attributed to their “being protected by God.”  In truth, we are engaging in delay by convincing ourselves that we enjoy the plateau.  However, we know what happens to every life form that stops growing, expanding and bearing fruit.  We are designed to create.  If we wish to create beyond the confines of a plateau, we must relocate, turn off the television, change jobs, design a simpler lifestyle, read more books, take exotic trips, paint outside the lines of convention, go to college, pursue what before appeared impossible and hurl ourselves toward barriers we once feared.  Life was designed by our Creator to be an exciting adventure while also remaining a learning experience.  This will occur when we take charge, know our role as co-creators, refuse to personalize life issues and trust God for the outcome of all things.  We are in charge of how we perceive, the quality of our responses and knowing we can bloom where we are planted.  Not everything is as it first appears.  When we remember this, our inner world will know peace while we live within the torrents of rapid change.