The Challenges of Change

20131231_171148I found myself challenging a friend’s post on Face Book today. This young woman is someone I care deeply for and who has a different point of view than I do. Her viewing point does not originate from the same place as mine on the issue of Planned Parenthood. She sees the issue from the perspective of the unborn child and I see the issue from the perspective of the dis-empowered woman. I can respect her perspective, however, and I applaud her courage to speak out on an issue she is passionate about. I believe that both points of view are valid and the opportunity to dialogue on all issues is what moves the ball slowly down the field of God’s Will which is, I believe, for us to love one another and honor all life.

The tension created by opposing points of view is what creates positive change in the world but it is often messy and uncomfortable. I remember working in residential treatment during the transformation of therapeutic intervention from one of confrontation to Motivational Interviewing. I was trained in the old school of severe and harsh confrontation and had to let that go to learn the newer methodology of MI. It was tough but I was able to recognize the value of the new approach and supported the change. I can remember sitting in staff meetings as the treatment team discussed particularly difficult cases and listened as those who had not been able to make an impact on a particular client argued for stronger, more disciplinary measures for unacceptable behavior; while the MI folks argued for the softer approach. Many counselors struggled with the discussion and would get frustrated and angry. Some believed that confrontation was the only thing that could make a difference and others firmly believed that MI was the only way to create a meaningful break through. It was the tension between the two ideologies that ultimately changed the culture of treatment. It’s not that one was right and the other was wrong. It was that each had its place in the therapeutic toolbox. Those who clung rigidly to their belief that confrontation was the only path to change did not do well in their careers, but those who were willing to be open minded, teachable and flexible became excellent clinicians.

That was, of course, a much smaller issue than today’s hot political issue of whether Planned Parenthood, a non-profit organization, should continue to provide health services to women. I believe that the discourse we are currently having on this subject will lead to a positive result, but change is a slow and sometimes painful process. No ideology is all good or all bad. The challenge will be to stay focused on the facts when there are strong emotional reactions to the issues of abortion and women’s rights. No matter which perspective you are viewing this issue from, it behooves us all to research both sides well and follow our hearts rather than the talking heads who profit by pitting us against one another.

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