Why Is Change So Difficult

Why do many if not most human beings inherently resist change? From my personal and congregational experience over many years it seems there three basic reasons: We are confused, we are fearful and we are exhausted. First the confusion part. The world is changing exponentially and at light speed these days, especially with the rise of technology. Many of us don’t understand the how and why of the changes taking place and how those changes will affect us. Sometimes those who are attempting to enact the change haven’t clearly described or communicated it to us in a way that makes sense. These feelings of confusion give rise to fear. People tend to fear what they don’t understand. Think about our relationship with strangers and “outsiders” who invade our comfortable spaces (and churches) bringing with them unusual practices and ideas. We often fear them until we get to know them and then our attitudes can suddenly and dramatically change. Finally, following all of the confusion and fear comes exhaustion. So much in our world is changing so fast that we get worn out trying to adjust. For most people, simply going through the motions of life and fulfilling our basic responsibilities absorbs much of our time and energy with little appetite left for adjusting to change. In this case inertia takes over and even if the same old thing(s) aren’t really productive or adding value to our lives we find it easier just to continue to do the same things in the same way.

Here’s the deal, however, in terms of change and how we relate to it. We cannot stop the change. We may have the illusion that we can control things, but in the end the changes will arrive and we will either learn how to navigate them or we will left behind in a sea of resentment and fear. Change is the very nature of life and transformation should be at the very heart of the spiritual life and congregational life. Churches are notoriously resistant to change because they often identify their structure, theology, ministries and traditions with “eternal values” and “eternal truth” which is fact, usually have nothing to do with how they function. As well, when church folk consider change in their congregations and then consider how rapidly the world around them is changing, the one thing they want to remain the same is their church. As a pastor I understand this. In what can be a very unpredictable world the church becomes for many a solace and sanctuary which provides comfort, familiarity and a measure of “stability.”