It's Time to Empower the Individual
Today's blog is different than most. Usually, I am trying to empower you to change. I have tried things that work, and I want to encourage you to give them a try as well. Our episodes are about personal reflection and focus. Rarely do we discuss tactics explicitly designed to change other people. Today is an exception. Today, I want to encourage you to help others make needed changes. I want to explore a big mistake organizations make when trying to help people change. If we can avoid this one big mistake, we can see real growth in our families, churches and community.
What is the one big mistake people make? If you think organized efforts, groups, programs, or legislation change the individual, you'd be mistaken. While organized efforts and the like can help encourage people in their personal effort to change, programs and legislation do not lead people to go from one direction to another. Let me illustrate: if the government creates a program in San Francisco to house the homeless, and funds it with tax payer money, and offers tremendous incentives to those who respond, don't you think that would work? Well, it doesn't. They've tried throwing money, group homes, legislation and oversight at the problem, and things haven't improved. Why not? Because a homeless person will not change his or her behavior because some organization makes it easy for them to do so. You might think they would, but they will not, not on the whole.
What is the better way to address the problem? You may not like this. It is a lot harder than paying a little extra in taxes, or voting to support another community program destined to be ineffective. The answer is hands on. The answer demands love for others on a very personal, one on one, time intensive way. You can't pay to have it done. You must do it, knowing it could cost you both time and money. The answer is: personal connection and encouragement. If one citizen of San Francisco made a personal connection with the homeless person on their block; and they really heard their story and understood their situation, it would spark a connection. Once a rapport began, offered help would be accepted, integrity could be shown in both directions, and the person with means could motivate the homeless person to honor that relationship through action. This can work. This will work. But most people with means want some oversight committee to "take care of the problem," instead of them going out, one on one, and taking care of the person.
Okay, how does this approach help me with my people? If you have someone in your family who is unmotivated, or someone in your church who is weak, how can this truth help them? Well, to be crystal clear, it won't be accomplished through some home rule like, "Everyone who cleans their room gets dessert." And it won't get better because the elders got up and said, "we want everyone to come back to church on Sunday night." These seem easy (and in fact they are easy to proclaim), but they don't do much good. The children who enjoy cleaning their room will do it and get dessert. The lazy ones will not do it and talk you into dessert by the third night anyway. The members who love to attend will applaud the elder's announcement, while the members who don't enjoy worship will disregard it completely.
Instead, they need individual attention. A parent needs to sit down with their child and find out what's going on. Why aren't they following the rules? What is missing in that relationship that causes them to disrespect it? Sure, there still may be laws and consequences, but they are communicated eye to eye and with mutual understanding and maybe even mutual respect. A strong member of a local church shouldn't complain that a family doesn't attend. They should ask the family over for lunch and get to know them. Find out about their history, their story, and their current issues. Offer to have a weekly bible study, ask them about worship attendance and why they struggle to commit. Make it personal. Take the time. Communicate care and encouragement.
But aren't groups, especially in the church, actually helpful? You might wonder, what about groups that meet to go and evangelize, or groups that meet quarterly to have a meal together, or groups that meet to do nice things for the elderly, aren't these helpful? Sure, but have you noticed who attends? The 1/3 of people who were already active, they attend these meetings. But what about the 2/3 of a church or group who need to do better in all these areas? They don't come. Why not? Because groups are good to help motivated people get better. But they aren't good for drawing someone to turn their life around and start a commitment. That, my friend, takes real work. It takes individuals connecting with, understanding, and empowering other individuals.
Please understand me. This is important. To some extend you will influence the world through your example. Be the change you wish to see in the world. But to really help change people in your life, it takes more. And every connection matters. Each individual relationship that is built and maintained, will add up to change the world. So, this week, find someone in your family, or someone in your church, or community, who really needs to do better, and start a program... NO ... tell an elder.... NO... give a family speech... NO... Instead, go meet with that person and make it personal, take the time to see things from their view, and challenge them individually and lovingly, to get better. And make sure they know you are there to help them every step of the way.
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