I’ve come to the conclusion that there are three kinds of people in the world. There are people who like change; they rearrange their furniture and organize their spice cabinets and move to a new address every six months if they can. There are people who don’t like change; they thrive on order and predictability. They have the same socks they wore in high school, and they eat fish sticks and green Jell-O for dinner on Thursdays. Last, there are people who think they like change, but what they really like is to inflict change on other people. They are the bosses of the world, and they love to change everybody else’s life.
The Truth about Change:
Change is hard. It’s hard and uncomfortable. We like change we can control, but when change happens to us, it’s difficult.
Change is inevitable. Everything that is alive changes. The only things that don’t change are dead. Life is like a river; every day it changes. You’ll never get the same two days in a row.
Change is uncontrollable. If you have kids, you know that change is uncontrollable. That sweet little five-year-old girl who loves her Barbie Dreamhouse becomes the fifteen-year-old who rolls her eyes when you mention Barbie. They grow and change, and there’s not a thing you can do stop it.
The good news is you can utterly resist change by making it so hard on the change-makers that they’ll just give up and let you have your way.
Here are some proven strategies for accomplishing that:
You can retreat from change. Just withdraw. Pull into your shell and pull away from other people. When it gets too uncomfortable at work, quit. When things get too progressive at your church, you can go find a church that does things the way you liked it ten years ago. You can retreat.
You can find all the flaws. Anytime someone brings up something new, become the king or queen of nitpicking. Be the guy who says, “If we do this, then that could happen. There’s a slim chance, but there’s a chance, right? We should be prepared for the worst.” Find enough flaws, and you can shut the whole thing down.
You can kill it with questions. Instead of looking at the situation from the 30,000 foot level where you can see the long range scope, get down to the subatomic level and focus on minutiae. If your company is working on a building campaign, be the guy who can’t move forward until you know what size bolts the contractor will use on the interior doorknobs of the classrooms on the third floor. Question everybody until they’re ready to give up, until they throw their hands in the air in exasperation and say, “Never mind. It’s too hard. There are too many questions.”
You can play the “been there, done that” card. Be the guy who reminds everyone that we tried that last year or in the last election or back in 1952. Remind everyone that it didn’t work, and it’s a waste of time and resources to try it again. Because you’re right: you have tried that. The reason I know you have is because everything has been tried before. The writer of Ecclesiastes tells us that history merely repeats itself. Nothing is new. Now, it’s possible that even though you’ve done it before, maybe you did it badly. Maybe you could give it a go and try not to suck this time, but if you ask enough questions there might still be time to shut it down.
You can bring in the choir. This actually has nothing to do with music. Stay with me here. When there’s a new idea at the church, at the office, or somewhere in your sphere of influence, you go to the leader and say, “You know, I feel like I should tell you that there are several people upset about this. A whole bunch of people are upset. They won’t tell you, but they’re telling me.” Act like there’s a choir behind you, a whole crowd of faceless people who silently disagree and are staging an anonymous mutiny.
If you want to resist change, these are great ways to do it. You can dig your heels in the mud, put your head in the sand, and just flat out resist anything the world sends your way. I should warn you, though. If you resist change and insist on sticking with what’s always been done, you’re well on your way to becoming irrelevant. People will stop listening to you, and your voice will matter very little in no time at all. It’s the downside of all of the above. You run the risk of mattering less and less.
But there actually is an alternative…
The problem is this: God is always future-oriented, rather than past-oriented. He is all about creating change that brings life. This is difficult, for sure. You like the way it was; so do I. That’s human nature. But something new is happening and we need a new way to handle it. So how do we respond to this, when Jesus is doing something new in our lives, or when something is changing around us? How do we deal with that?
You can ask two questions. You can look at the changes in your life, and you can first ask this: God, where are you at work? In my home, my office, my church, my spouse, my world…where are you at work? Second, how can I join you? What can I do to be part of what you’re doing?
You can be bold. You can say, “I’ll admit, change is hard, challenging, uncomfortable and unnatural. And I’m going to learn.”
You can embrace the new. If you pick this one, you can choose to stay relevant. God is God. In His great power, He created the universe. He didn’t set the world spinning just to step back and see where it would land. God is at work, and He is doing something new. He invites you to join him. If you embrace the change, then along the way you just might be part of something grand.
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Tricia Lott Williford lives and writes in Denver. She attends Southeast Christian Church in Parker, Colorado, and many of her articles on faith are born from the conversations and teachings of her pastors, Phil Vaughan and Geoff Surratt. You can join the conversation with Southeast’s online services this weekend.