Martin Buber, the renowned Jewish philosopher, linked personal and global transformation — a “genuine person (is one) whose transformation helps toward the transformation of the world.” When we think seriously about Buber’s statement, it challenges us to transform ourselves if we want to be authentic persons.
The journey toward being authentic
The aspiration to transform oneself doesn’t feel natural or come easily to most people. In fact, we have learned throughout our lives to be “agents of the status quo” which already makes substantial demands on us. We would rather stay in this familiar situation than transform ourselves. Usually, in our accustomed way of living, one of our basic drives dominates our life. If it is power, then it feels natural to set goals, achieve, compete. If it is love, then it feels natural to relate, include and care for. It almost never feels natural to one focused on power to make their achievement more difficult by also trying to help others achieve, perhaps in competition with them. Nor does it feel natural to people focused on love to use their power in forcing issues to the surface, and engaging in the ensuing conflict to achieve some resolution.
To be a Change Agent and engage in transforming larger groups and institutions in the world, we must first take initial, halting and uncomfortable steps in order to learn how, eventually, to use both our power and love in service of a larger vision of reality. That involves, as Adam Kahane says in Power and Love “falling” then “stumbling” before finally “walking.” Why would anyone want to take that risk?
Becoming a Change Agent requires a “trigger” from outside ourselves
The desire and urgency to become a Change Agent is a gift not an achievement. It comes from outside ourselves. This could be the result of circumstances — “Someone has to do something because the situation is desperate” — or result from an invitation. A teacher, a friend, a minister could say something that opens our eyes to the implications of staying in the status quo. It could result from reading this blog. Wherever it originates, you can be sure that a genuine invitation to become a transformational Change Agent will disrupt your usual ways of thinking and leave you uneasy, rattled or even frightened. You cannot stay in this painful state so you either “fight or flee” from the invitation initially. Ultimately, perhaps, as Buber says, you begin to see that your response is linked to being authentic, true to yourself. When that happens, you begin the journey toward being a Change Agent.