“Culture resides in our minds, in the stories we tell ourselves”, so says Peter Senger author of The 5th Discipline. If that is true, and it resonates with me that it is, then changing culture is about changing the stories we tell ourselves. Let me illustrate.
One of the cars I drove was a 1995 Plymouth Sundance, one of our young sons named it “Franky” though I don’t know why. One night as we drove along highway 401 in Ontario a deer ran in front of us and Franky collided causing about $4000 damage to the vehicle. The insurance company deemed it repairable and so into the body shop it went. Less than a year later we came out of the corps on a Sunday night to discover Franky had been raptured, well no, Franky was stolen! The police found Franky a few days later and into the shop it went for more repairs…about $4000 worth of damage to the vehicle. About six months later while sitting in front of a school waiting for my kids to come out of school a big yellow school bus rumbled by, the driver swung in front of our parked car catching the back of his bus on our car and the result was $2500 worth of repairs to the front of Franky.
So what’s the story I told myself? There’s something about this car! Maybe it is being hunted by Satan? Maybe Franky has bad luck? Maybe you shouldn’t name a car Franky? You get the idea.
Now take your life. Our experiences can form the same kind of irrational or, from our perspective rational, opinions. We find ourselves having trouble at the store and we assume that the clerk is either out to get us or is incompetent. Perhaps in the midst of a difficult time, we face a further loss and we assume that the world is against us. Maybe we have a disagreement with an officer or a leader in the corps and we make the assumption that they are wrong (because we are right!) and then we extrapolate from that experience that all authority figures are wrong.
What might be another story we could tell ourselves? When the clerk doesn’t get our food order right, could we remember that many people have no food and be grateful for being able to order with such ease? Should we be in disagreement with a brother or sister in Christ might we sense that God is working to remove the rough edges of our character? In the midst of loss or hurt, could we remind ourselves of the positives? Could we see that God is with us, that He has provided us with the Holy Spirit to be our guide? Could we remember that we have friends who have told us they will stand with us? In the midst of tragedy could we see that God has promised to be our comfort and strength?
What is the story that we need to tell ourselves? God’s story, I remind myself every day, is one of redemption and love and mercy. Changing our story to one of positive and affirming qualities will bring us a greater sense of joy and appreciation and will tell of a better culture which Jesus called The Kingdom of God.