This is a question that I’ve been noodling for a while. My journey to South Carolina from Indiana was precipitated by a longing to know how people change. Some of this came from my own personal experiences and struggles with change. Some came from working with students in a residential setting. I had the privilege of seeing many students succeed upon leaving the program my wife and I were working at. But I also saw many who appeared to make drastic changes to their life go home and crash. Now, I work with families who enter Acts Metro with the expressed intent to change. We don’t accept anyone who indicates they are resistant to change. Yet some don’t.
So how do people change? And how do we empower change in others?
These are complicated questions, without simple definitions or answers. But in the interest of space, I’m going to offer a simplistic starting point for both. It boils down to one thing — choice. What empowers change? Choice.
But there’s a catch. After all, choice happens. Even by not choosing, we choose. We live in a reality of choice. Then why don’t we see more positive change around us and inside us?
Because not all choices move us forward. In fact, I think all our “choosers” are broken. This applies to all of us, not just the families that enter our program. They all are facing this concrete reality. Life isn’t working for them the way they want it to. But what about those of us who appear successful in life? Let’s be brutally honest with ourselves, none of us make the right decisions all the time. All of us could use some work on our chooser.
If choice empowers and all our choosers are in disrepair, this leaves us at a pretty dismal starting spot. Which, ironically, is right where we need to be. Like the addict who’s first step is to admit they are an addict, we all must come to a place where we admit that we’re broken. That act of humility is the first choice that all of us must make on the road to empowerment!
Ironically, this becomes both an anchor and an engine for change. It binds us to the human truth that we need others and a being higher than ourselves to become more fully human. It also connects us with sources of strength (God and each other) that fuels future empowerment. Without humility, our chooser will continue to take us down the road to self-protection, which is drastically different than self-sufficiency.
So how do we promote empowerment in others? Help them choose, but begin by helping them see their need. Humility is a pre-requisite for empowerment.