Saturday, January 22, 2011

A Fable:The (inverse) Power of Belief

Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. This is why I speak to them in parables: Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand. -Jesus

These are some really confusing and counter-intuitive words aren't they? Why would Jesus not want people to understand? How is taking from the have-nots and giving to the haves fair? I think that Jesus was talking about this idea (that I have been hashing out in other posts) that those who are unmotivated to change are impenetrable to insight. The question that many leaders (churches, companies, families) have is who do we focus on to create a healthy environment for all? Some leaders focus on those with the most pathology (dysfunction) only to become frustrated, discouraged and more stuck.

Jesus didn't do that. He didn't spend all his time thinking that he could convince those who were unmotivated to see things his way. He said, "come follow me" to a few and then he went. When he encountered those who misunerdstood him and accused him, he told stories, he got to the root of people's motivations, and he found creative ways to deescalate conflict.

The following Friedman Fable shows just how powerful belief can be to help people not change.

One evening a man came home and announced that he was dead. Immediately, some of his neighbors tried to show him how foolish this notion was. He walked, and dead men cannot move themselves. He was thinking, his brain was functioning, and he was breathing; and that after all, is the quintessence of living. But none of these arguments had any effect. No matter what reason was brought to bear against his position, no matter how sensible the argument, the man maintained he was dead. He parried their thrusts with ingenious skill.

He seemed to have a way of constantly putting the burden of proof on the other. Every now and then someone thought, Now, I!ve pinned him down,"having brought evidence so obvious no one could deny it; But then he would use his trump: "If I am dead, you don!t exist either since surely the living do not traffic with the dead." 

As the mixture of fear and frustration thickened, it was finally agreed that
outside help must be called. A psychiatrist, and preacher were both brought in, but to no avail. Finally they brought in the family doctor. He had known the man since he was a little boy, and besides being a physician with a reputation for patience and skill, he was respected everywhere for his homey

"Tell me, do dead men bleed?"
"Of course not," said the man. "Then," said the doctor, "would you allow me to make a small cut in your arm, say above the elbow? I will treat it; there's no reason to worry about infection. I'll stop the flow immediately, and we can see, once and for all whether you are dead."

With everyone watching anxiously the doctor deftly slit the flesh, and blood came spurting out. There was a gasp of joy throughout the group. Some laughed, others even applauded though a few seemed rather to be relieved. The doctor quickly dressed the wound and turned to everyone saying, "Well, I hope that puts an end to this foolishness." Everyone was congratulating the physician when they suddenly realized that the man was headed for the door. As he opened it, he turned to the group and said, "I see that I was wrong." Then, as he turned to leave, he added, "Dead men in fact, do bleed."

  • How much energy do you spend trying to persuade or change other people?
  • Have you ever found yourself impenetrable to insight?

1 comment:

  1. I feel a lot of angst after reading leaving wounded people behind.