Change: Power or Understanding?

Every social worker, missionary, humanitarian, etc wants to see positive and progressive change in their areas of service. However there is a marked difference between change that comes from understanding and change that comes from power. Change that comes from understanding is slow but long-lasting.

Whereas power change is quick but short lived–it usually is lost as soon as the power figure is no longer present. In the book “Make Haste Slowly” the author shares an example of an effort by a Western NGO in Sudan to get the local people to adopt cotton as an agricultural cash crop. It was actually successful and quite profitable. But as soon as the Westerners left the Sudan the endeavor was tossed aside by the locals.

Why? Because from the beginning it was imposed upon them forcefully and they never truly understood and chose it for it’s lasting potential. Often when change, even beneficial change, is forced upon us we naturally resist it and revert back to our old selves and habits as soon as the power behind the change moves on. I’ve also seen missionaries in Cambodia with very strong personalities seeking to effect needed change through power moves rather than patient instruction that cultivates understanding and thus ownership for all involved. Initially the change that comes through power produces immediate results and one can think that “all is well” in virtue of the fact that everything they sought to implement is taking place.

But as soon as they leave there is a reflexive tendency to revert back to an older form that is more understandable and personal in virtue of it being self chosen. Positive and progressive change becomes embraced by a culture when its wisdom and rationality are clearly understood. Understanding is the fertilizer for true growth and development.

About StriderMTB

Hi, I'm Matt. "Strider" from Lord of the Rings is my favorite literary character of all time and for various reasons I write under the pseudonym "StriderMTB. As my blog suggests I seek to live out both the excitement and tension of a Christian walk with Christ in the 3rd world context of Asia. I started my blog as an unmarried man who was blessed to oversee an orphanage of amazing children in South-East Asia. As of 2022, I am a happily married man to an amazing missionary wife serving together on the mission field. I hate lima beans and love to pour milk over my ice-cream. I try to stay active in both reading and writing and this blog is a smattering of my many thoughts. I see the Kingdom of God as Jesus preached it and lived to be the only hope for a broken world and an apathetic church.
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