Types and Patterns
But as much we have communal wisdom for everyone in times of transition, we also have unique directives for different types of people: the combative, those eager for change, the complaining sentimentalist, the jaded cynic, the naïve optimist, the die-hard dreamer, the lazy one, the people pleaser, the pushover, the stick-to-business kind, the perfectionist, the anxious, the hopeless, the manipulator, and oh so much more. We need to talk differently to different people through their seasons of transition.
(By the way, my point in saying all of this is not to caricature kinds of person in transition [who could ever map this out totally?]. My hope is to give a few distinct pieces of direction, to those who respond to deep transition differently and offer others insight to encourage a culture of empathy.)
First, empathy. Half of the population (the half who are eager for a relevant change), need to consider the other half who are sentimental or grieving a loss in the midst of change. The eager-for-change folks need to think of those who are mourning and what is lost in transition; we mourn with those who grieve. Those dealing with their own sentimental grieving need repay this kindness, to be happy for those eager for change. Sentimental grievers need to rejoice with those who are rejoicing for something new. Neutral people need to do a bit of rejoicing and a bit of mourning. Patently, even though it happens not as often as we would like, Christians can be drivers of empathy during change.
Blessing enemies. Some folks in transition struggle with perennial cynicism; they’ve been disappointed over and over again and can slip into cursing easily. Some folks struggle with feelings of agitation and aggression in transition. Perhaps, in transition, somebody has ruined something long cherished. Worse, perhaps somebody has ruined a sense of normalcy. Some express their agitation passively. These people can insert a lot of negativity into transition. Both groups need to remember that, even if they perceive some type of persecution in transition, they should bless those who persecute them. Bless and do not curse. Cynics, you can bless those who have failed you, or who promise to fail you. Passive aggressive people, bless those who run roughshod over your perspective. Christians know how to bless their enemies and not curse them during transition.
Humility. Most people—the good majority of people—tend to think they are mostly right about most things. They are right about what is right. They are right about what is wrong. And they are right about what is wrong with the people who are trying to make things right. They are right about change, even if they are anxious or feeling hopeless. People who think they are right about change can quickly start complaining and quarreling. They tend to do much of this complaining in private settings with people they tend to agree with. Christians patently know how to hold their own views tenderly, knowing that humans are often wrong. It’s okay to work through transition, making sense of change with your allies. But mature Christians should be able to adopt a posture of public humility without losing their dignity.
Biting dialogue. Jaded cynics and people who tend to be combative really need to watch themselves when they are sure they are right; take heed…if you bite at one another, be sure that you don’t consume one another.
Truth and Love. Combative people (passive and otherwise) generally need to be willing to speak the truth in love. This is true as well for people who are outspoken, and for people who feel that they have lost their voice. Aggressive people need to speak the truth IN LOVE. This means in humility, with care and reverence for others, and a sense that we are trying to work together to build up the world. Passive people, especially people pleasers, need to SPEAK THE TRUTH in love. If we cannot talk to one another in love, we should just shut down and close the doors of the church. World change, I believe, begins with Christians learning to talk to one another as adults.
Hope. All sorts of people need to put their hope in the LORD during the deepest times of transition. This is especially true for combative people, complaining people, quarrelling people, jaded people, people pleasers, people eager for change, and the naïve optimist. What draws these people together in transition is usually their common (misplaced) hope in humans. Their hope will fall. And when all is said and done, they will be wounded and fatigued. But some people eager for change, who are wise (and God bless the wise optimist), have rooted their resilience in something deeper. They can withstand the failed projects of human civilization. Mature Christians can endure great change, with steadfastness, when they have their hope placed in the counterintuitive, sometimes-maddening, ways of the Wise and Good Lord.