by Kassandra Lamb
We have an interim pastor at my church. The previous pastor left a few months ago and this gentleman is filling in while we search for a new permanent pastor. This interim pastor has made several small changes in the order of worship. I’m sure they seem important to him, but honestly I don’t get how having the ushers bring the alms basins all the way to the altar (instead of being met at the steps by an acolyte) really makes any significant difference in the state of the world.
When someone steps into a new position of authority it is human nature to want to change things, whether those changes are truly needed or not. This may be due simply to discomfort because things are not being done the way the new leader is used to (I suspect this is the case with our new interim pastor). Or it can be about leaving his/her mark on new territory, to feel important or to assert one’s authority.
So they make changes, which may range from little tweaks to drastically reversing the previous leader’s procedures and policies. The consequences of these changes may not be thoroughly assessed, and sometimes, maybe even often, there wasn’t really anything all that wrong with the original way of doing things.
Which brings us to another reality of human nature. People don’t like change, especially if they didn’t initiate it.
As far as I can tell, the only thing these small changes in the church service have accomplished is confusion on the part of the ushers (of which I am one) and a mild sense of unease in the congregation every time something happens in a slightly different way than they are used to.
This chap is a nice guy, an intelligent and kind man of the cloth who means well. But he is temporary. And yet he couldn’t resist changing things to the way he is most comfortable with, even though it’s making everyone else vaguely uncomfortable.
This is what can happen when one fails to apply critical thinking to one’s actions.
(See Part 1 of this series for a discussion of the natural biases in thinking that make critical thinking difficult and Part 2 for how to evaluate information critically.)
So how do we apply critical thinking to our actions…
Step 1: Evaluate the situation. Is there really a problem that needs action?
Or are we making changes for the sake of change, or to thwart those whom we see as opponents.
Step 2: Look for actions that might solve the problem (if there is indeed a problem) and then evaluate if those actions will truly make things better.
In 1920, many Americans deemed the excessive consumption of alcohol to be a serious problem in our country. The U.S. Congress voted for and the majority of state legislatures ratified the 18th Amendment to the Constitution, prohibiting the manufacture, importation, transportation, and sale of alcoholic beverages.
But this action did not solve the problem. Only casual drinkers gave up alcohol because of this law. Within a few years, alcohol consumption was back up to 60-70% of pre-Prohibition levels as bootlegging and speakeasies became common.
When assessing the virtues of a potential action, we need to make sure it’s really a true solution to the problem. And that it doesn’t cause other problems.
Which brings us to…
Step 3: Apply critical thinking to evaluate what other consequences might result from the actions taken to solve a problem.
Prohibition not only didn’t solve the problem but it caused several others. Taxes went up as the costs for law enforcement and prisons rose dramatically. Illegal distribution of alcohol became a boon for organized crime. And thousands of people became ill or died from tainted “bathtub gin.”
In 1933, the ratification of the 21st Amendment of the Constitution ended the “noble experiment” of Prohibition.
Bottom line: it’s important to think (critically) before we act!
Your thoughts? Have you been in a situation where someone changed things for the sake of change and it backfired?
Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She writes the Kate Huntington psychological mysteries set in her native Maryland, and the Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mysteries set in Central Florida.
We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.
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Barb TaubJune 20, 2017 at 2:11 am
Great post. I wonder how these points would apply to current healthcare debates?
Kassandra LambJune 20, 2017 at 1:51 pm
Oh, they most definitely apply, Barb, but I carefully avoided going there. I’m a coward… 🙂
Vinnie HansenJune 20, 2017 at 1:51 pm
The only one who likes change is a wet baby. 🙂
On the other hand, I’ve heard that making changes, even small unnecessary ones like trying a new route to work, can stimulate creativity.
Kassandra LambJune 20, 2017 at 2:21 pm
Haha.. yes, babies like change. 😀
Certainly change to shake things up a little isn’t a bad thing. Indeed, change isn’t a bad thing in general. Personally, I like change occasionally. I get bored with the same old, same old all the time.
But if the change is a biggie and/or affects others, then I think it behooves us to think it through carefully, especially the unforeseen consequences. I had several other examples I considered using. Sadly I’ve lived long enough to see quite a few government and organizations’ policies backfire.
K.B. OwenJune 21, 2017 at 4:47 pm
Lots of great points here, Kass. It sounds as if someone is taking his (temporary) leadership role a bit too seriously. I’m assuming there’s no liturgical reason for the alms baskets to be brought up to the altar rather than given to the acolytes?
I believe you can go a step further in your advice about thinking critically about the change before making it. There is a degree of empathy involved in making wise leadership decisions as well – being able to put oneself in the position of those affected by the change on multiple levels. Often someone making a change will see the outward effect (in your case, learning a new routine), but s/he doesn’t see the emotional/internal effect on those involved, or discounts it as insignificant.
My two cents, LOL.
Kassandra LambJune 21, 2017 at 5:08 pm
A very good point, Kathy. Sometimes it’s not enough to consider the practical ramifications but one should also look at the emotional ones.