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.