Managing Change without Judgment

It is not my usual custom to bang on sacred cows, but while we’re on the topic of change and judgment, I thought I’d add another nickel to my earlier two cents. I’d like to look at why change is so difficult for people, but before I do so I feel it important to give a little background.

What is the tipping point between discernment, which is the cornerstone of wisdom, and judgment, which is the mark of a weak mind and a troubled heart? If you are familiar with accounting, discernment is akin to the income and cash flow statements while judgment is more like a balance sheet. If you’re not, the difference I am pointing to here is in the nature of the picture taken of the current financial situation. The income and cash flow statements paint a moving picture while the balance sheet is a more static look at the flow.

Judgment occurs as a result of premature discernment. Every process involves phases – conception, gestation, birth and maturation – and judging a process as being good or bad while it is still working out is the essence of judgment.

Change tends to freak people out. We (as a result of our wiring or our habits I am not sure) tend to be creatures of habit. We like predictability. We tend to fear the unknown. The devil you know is preferable to the one you don’t, as they say. That said, the unfortunate reality is that the only constant in life is change.

Change is more often than not the process of moving from a state characterized by a majority of “knowns” through a no-man’s land filled with “unknowns” to a state where some or all things are made new. More often than not change is spoiled by reactions while traversing the no-man’s land that lies between the former and the new.

As I mentioned, we tend to fear the unknown. Fear tends to produce irrational reactions in people and people will do the darndest things when faced with change. Some will cut and run. Others will channel their fear into anger and lash out at anyone and everyone. While a third group will tend to bury their heads in the sand, hoping against hope that the winds of change will blow away, leaving them and their familiar surroundings unchanged.

The wise person sees himself as an agent in the process of change – any change – and not its victim. Participating in change allows you to maintain control, even if it only with respect to your own person. As an agent of change you needn’t react to “balance sheet” views of the process of change at hand, for you know that there is a beginning, a middle and an end to every change that has ever and will ever work out.

Proclaiming judgment on a process based strictly on the “balance sheet” snapshot view of the process is like disparaging a fetus for not being a good toddler or criticizing a five year old for being a bad adult. Judgment is the act of posing as judge, jury and executioner at a point in the process where only an objective witness is called. Further, judgment clouds the process because of the emotional charge that tends to back the words of he who is rendering the judgment.

Discernment, on the other hand, takes into account both the snapshot and the flow. Rather than forming a crystallized opinion of how this or that should be right now, even though it may be working out in a larger process, discernment allows its possessor an uncommon perspective, one that is not clouded by prejudice, inflexibility or regret.

When things change around you, don’t panic. Look for the ways in which you can continue to be an agent of change in the process. Rather than panicking and desperately finding ways to bring “how things were,” look instead to contribute, based on the situation, your available resources and your current vision, to the process.

The recent shift in the political environment in the United States appears to me to have resulted more from a reaction to the changes being made over the last couple of years than from a clear mandate about the direction we should be moving in as a country. I hope for the sake of the country that a clear mandate is articulated in short order.

Whenever change is resisted simply because the change is disliked for the unfamiliarity that typically accompanies it, everyone loses. A change for the better is more likely to come at the hand of agents of change who have clear vision, uncluttered minds and pure hearts.

No matter what change you’re faced with, take care not to judge the process in the sense I am outlining. Look instead to make a positive contribution. Ask yourself, “how can I most creatively handle this situation, exactly as it and I am at the moment.”

You’ll save yourself – and the world around you – a lot of heartache.

9 thoughts on “Managing Change without Judgment

  1. Joshua

    Greatly appreciate your extra five cents, that truly tipped the scale for me!!!
    Well put, and you can trust I will certainly actively engage in the process being outlined and eagerly let you know how it works out, as an Agent of change!!!
    Your words of wisdom never cease to amaze me, and more specifically the process of delivering those words right to the core of the matter at hand.
    Thanks Gregg.


  2. J.J.Mc

    The analogy of the child makes a clear correlation with what judgment can do. It puts road blocks up for things that are trying to mature, it creates shame and low self esteem when the seeming problem sometimes is just timing.
    Giving others and ourselves the space to evolve and grow is a natural way to show kindness, compassion and sincerely invest in people.


  3. Foxglove

    Yes, we have to give people space, and with sufficient patience and love for the inherent nobility in people, if you believe this, then fear can be simply put aside and we can continue in the process of changing, evolving into something much greater, much better. Fear cripples, where courage renews and brings healthy optimism.


  4. I agree with Colin and you as well. We had a young mechanic that I thought would never get his act together due to maturity issues. We have let him grow in his position and taught him new things over time. It hasn’t always been easy working with him but we gave him time to grow. The time investment was worth it.

    Now it is exciting to watch him teach our newest mechanic things we have taught him about how we do business. He has matured and become a great asset in our company.


  5. Brad

    this is a wonderfully profound post in one sense and yet should be a common understanding and practice – much to consider – thank you – the timing is perfect….and yes, we shall see about the political environment ~
    but let’s initiate change where we can, starting with ourselves


  6. Colin

    In keeping with your “don’t judge a child by a future growth stage” metaphor, I was thinking that it could apply in another way as well. Let’s say you have an adult that grew up physically, but never emotionally matured. What do you do here to maintain discernment, and to not judge? I think that there are a few options, but the one that I like is to always give them the opportunity to mature, and don’t peg them as a lost cause. I think you’ve mentioned this before, but when you give someone a chance like that, they will usually shape up or ship out.
    The thing about judgement is that it’s hurtful- and unncessesary. Discern the best course of action for your life, but leave the fear of change out of it, and be of good cheer. I’ve found that when I let a change happen without premature input, I am often pleasantly surprised with the outcome. Hopefully you will too.


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