By Warren E. Nelson
Part 3–Change Is Everywhere … Sigh
At 70 years old, I have faced an astonishing amount of change, from the successful introduction of TV, the invention and world-wide deployment of the internet and the transition from paper to digital documents (I still remember the first time I used a word processor and, even more astonishing, the first spreadsheet I built!) and the transition from analog photography and film to the astonishing capabilities of digital imaging of all kinds.
And that’s just scratching the surface. And, while most outcomes of these and untold numbers of other changes have been generally good, there have been some unmitigated disasters, personally and worldwide.
The indications are, no matter what we’ve learned about handling change, the end is nowhere near. Now many of us are facing the ultimate change, getting old and facing our own mortality.
I asked Monte if this spiritual growth model had application in other areas.
I would like you to talk about the value of this model of spiritual growth in dealing with life change and rough times and the feelings of discomfort and fear we have during this process, which are completely natural. It’s the way life and change are! Could you talk about this for a minute from your pastoral perspective?
Absolutely. As people grow spiritually, there are very uncomfortable times as they move into new stages, new ways of understanding things. The level of anxiety naturally goes up. And now we’re talking about ultimate anxiety. Spirituality is about ultimate things! So it’s not just a little bit of anxiety about little things, like I have a new car and it has a new shift mechanism. Spirituality is a much bigger arena in which to be anxious.
Change and growth always has conflict, misunderstanding, discomfort, even anger … a whole range of feelings. That’s part of change. If you don’t experience those things, you’re not growing, you’re not changing. You’re just sitting there … stuck in the mud. Whenever things start moving, at least on the inside, there are elements of friction, a feeling of being in a new place that doesn’t feel like that old comfortable pair of jeans feels.
That’s the nature of being human. That’s the nature of change. And when we’re talking about a spiritual journey, then it’s even more amplified.
I remember a book I read many years ago, and I think you may have even recommended it to me. The title was “Corporate Lifecycles: How and Why Corporations Grow and Die and What to Do About It” by Ichak Adizes.
In a nutshell the author says that organizations begin to die when form and structure become more important than their product or service. He summed it up with this comment (and I paraphrase) “In all organizations, entrepreneurs come and go, bureaucrats accumulate.”
And there’s an element of this process in our discussion of spiritual growth because it seems that people who found great comfort in structure, coming from the chaos that they had been experiencing, are often not only fearful of change but aggressive about maintaining that structure. Can you talk about that for a second?
Yes, because the structure is the focus of their spiritual journey at that point, anything that you do to suggest modification of the structure, anything that happens that suggests that the structure really doesn’t fit anymore or isn’t appropriate anymore, anything that takes away from that structure, and I’m going to be judgmental now, they create kind of idolatry of that structure, ANY criticism of it is threatening to them, very threatening to them, again, at a spiritual level. And, that threat feels far more dangerous than the company announcing, “We’re not going to use the back dock anymore. We’re going to use the one on the left side of the building.”
They really do worship structure in a way, and here I would defend my judgmental viewpoint by saying it kind of appears idolatrous to anybody looking from a different perspective.
Yeah, exactly. Could you talk a minute about having compassion for those people who may actually have to have structure in their lives to survive. Alcoholics Anonymous is a classic example. I have a friend who spends hours a day immersed in AA. It has, literally, kept him alive.
Well, that’s a great example of the reality about structure. Structure is healing for many people. Structure is enabling them to live a life where many of them were almost suicidal before they discovered the structure of AA. Structure is not in and of itself, evil.
It’s good. It’s valuable. Anyone with any knowledge would not argue that the structure is evil, but structure can become a retardant to growth when the time comes to graduate, to move on, to differentiate between the structure and what makes it valuable. Structure isn’t valuable in and of itself. It’s valuable because of the purpose it achieves, often saving lives.
I hope you find this interview helpful. I did! So, here’s the link to the book. The Kindle version is cheaper than a grande caramel latte and muffin!
–Warren E. Nelson (Butch)