Transformation: What It Is (& Why We Need It)

When we think of transformation, we often think of the word change. On a surface level, we believe these two words are synonymous and relatively interchangeable. In like manner, we may interpret the word change as to “substitute one thing for another” (Burns, 2003, p. 24). But transformation is something radically different we do not often see or understand at first glance. To transform entails a revolution, a rebirth, and growth in some way; it changes the very nature of a thing (Burns, 2003, p. 24). Seeking transformation, like research, is a quantitative and qualitative process: ‘What are we working towards?’ and ‘Why are we working towards it?’ (Burns, 2003, p. 24). In our relationships, interactions, and engagement with others, whatever the situation or background, our focus must become an articulation of empowerment and humanity’s inherent meaningfulness if we seek transformation in the world around us.

One of the most studied areas in the field of Psychology is change and its permeation into our reality. It can make or break us – teaching us new coping styles and new paths of engagement in our life’s narrative, whether adaptive or maladaptive (Cohen & Sherman, 2014). Change is painful and sometimes unpopular. In our pain, we seek to reaffirm ourselves; and when that pain is especially acute, and our emotions are too intense, we lick our wounds and blame the other person: our enemy (Cohen & Sherman, 2014). Change becomes a threat, and the one who imposes it upon us becomes our aggressor and antagonist (Cohen & Sherman, 2014). Human beings have the innate desire to feel valuable, lovable, admirable, and adequate (Cohen & Sherman, 2014). Tying in with our own desire to be valued and found meaningful, though, is the desire of every human being to be found valued and meaningful, as well. What might be most adaptive for us, then, in the face of change, is the transformation of our coping styles, understanding of the world, and of who we are. We must seek to not affirm ourselves solely in uncertainty and hurt, but work to affirm those around us, lean into what is uncomfortable, and allow it to transform ourselves, our way of thinking, those around us, and the world over into more compassionate, empowering, humble, and persevering human beings.

Most salient in today’s representation of leadership falls on the political spectrum. Both sides view the other as inherently flawed, incapable, unintelligent, wrong, primitive, or even worse – evil. Whether we are leaders or followers now or in the future, though, we have the opportunity to transform our thinking into a deeper and more compassionate view that enables us to become co-creators, friends, and equals in all of life’s challenges, successes, agreements, and disagreements. We achieve this through and because of our differences and a desire to understand and be understood, to know and be known. In all that I do – current and future, what is most important to me is living out this hope that humanity has to grow, be reborn, revolutionized, and metamorphized through our own authenticity and allowance of others to do the same. We must develop our ability to love, affirm, empower, and understand them and where they are at in their journey.

Following this same idea of transformation through stewardship, Wigg-Stevenson relates the story of Daoud Nassar, a Palestinian Christian whose prized land is sought after by the Israeli government (Wigg-Stevenson, 2012, loc. 840). Through every trial faced, Daoud does not retaliate or give in with hostility, aggression, or violence (Wigg-Stevenson, 2012, loc. 869). He responds with kindness, compassion, and reverence, offering them tea and meaningful communion, and challenges the notion that those who do not agree with us are evil antagonists and aggressors (Wigg-Stevenson, 2012, loc. 887-895).

“…God is not finally on any of our sides, no matter how righteous the cause, because our enmity to him makes all of us simultaneously rebellious Israelites and biting snakes (Wigg-Stevenson, 2012, loc. 841)”.

With this in mind, we must wonder: what would it look like to begin to see all human beings humbly and equitably in this light – as fellow human beings deserving of dignity, compassion, and kindness?
Burns, J. M. (2003). Transforming leadership: A new pursuit of happiness (Vol. 213). Grove Press.
Cohen, G. L., & Sherman, D. K. (2014). The psychology of change: Self-affirmation and social psychological intervention. Annual review of psychology, 65, 333-371.
Wigg-Stevenson, T. (2012). The world is not ours to save: Finding the freedom to do good. InterVarsity Press.

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