Tuesday, January 8, 2008

How we change

Have you seen what's new with Miss America this year? After the pageant was deemed too lame to even televise last year, it was picked up this year by TLC, but not as a pageant . . . as a reality show. The intro begins, "They've spent a lifetime preparing for this moment (cut to footage of stiff-faced women in big hair) . . . and everything they've learned is about to change." Later, we're told that the show's consultants (aka, celebrity judges) will make the Miss America contestants "real, relevant, and 21st century."

In the first episode, the women apparently were given tasks to do while the judges watched them for style, poise, etc. and then at the end, the top three and the bottom three were given feedback about their performance. Here's the part I saw: Miss Idaho, in the bottom three, was told that her appearance was too "dated" and too "beauty queen"--hair too big, makeup too much, inappropriate for the casual setting of the day's tasks. Then she says defensively, "If this was good enough to win "Miss Idaho," then I think it's good." My first thought, just before I changed the channel: "Honey, do you want to be Miss Idaho or do you want to be Miss America?"

What would happen if, in an effort to make ourselves "real, relevant, and 21st century," we did spiritual and congregational transformation like the new Miss America reality show. What if other believers with a wider perspective than ours watched us perform our religious duties and then gave us feedback about it? My experience is that we would argue and resist and defend OR that we would agree, make a superficial change, and then go back to business as usual.

But what if--unlike Miss Idaho--we really wanted to win? What if we wanted excellence more than we feared change? What do you think? Would transformation happen?

I spend a lot of time and energy thinking about how people and systems change. This is partly because I am continually optimistic about the possibilities of change. For example, I'm completely nerdy about the new year and the potential for change that it brings. Also, people pay me money to help them change in ways that will make their lives better. Of course, they also resist all my efforts to help them change! We're all Miss Idaho at heart, I think!

To be honest, the reason I resist change is that my life works so well almost all the time. I can know that the changes I want to make are important, that they line up with my values, that they would improve my life . . . and yet, I don't change because I don't have to. Jack Denison, commenting on the work of Robert Quinn, writes, 'The better you function within your paradigm and the more you have invested in it, the more you stand to lose by changing it."

1 comment:

janet said...

I loved the questions you raised... what a great opening to a presentation!