Welcome to Resistance, part 1

Resistance. When is it time to stop resisting? When is it time to start resisting?

Resistance. If we can see it more clearly, name it more accurately, we are then in a position to decide what to do with it. Sometimes resisting is just what we will decide we want to be doing. Other times we’ll decide it’s time to let go of resistance.

But to live intentionally rather than pulled along by unconscious impulses, to live with integrity rather than the reactivity of the moment, is no easy thing. That is why, in T.S. Eliot’s words, “We shall not cease from exploration – and the end of all our exploration will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”

Resistance can take the form of confrontational energy: “Oh, no, you don’t. I’m not having it.” Or it might take the form of withdrawal: “Oh, forget it. Whatever.” And I understand. Protective resistance protects us against change.

Everybody says change is a good thing. “Status quo” has become a bad word. The left and the right both want to get rid of the status quo. They have different ideas of how, and what to replace it with, but these days the poor old status quo has no friends. Everybody is in favor of change.

The business world is all abuzz these days with talk not just of innovation, but of disruptive innovation. If your innovation isn’t disruptive enough, well, go back and try again. The more change the better.

Think outside the box. Whatever the box is, think outside it. Make a new box: which, of course, will compel you to think outside of it as soon as possible. Be a change agent. The highest aspiration a human being can have these days is to be someone who makes change happen.

And I get it. Change is a good thing. I’m down with that. Life is a process of continuous learning, continuous growth – at its best, it is continuous flourishing. Whatever is static, stunted, stultified is deadening – or dead.

Yet for all the championing of change, there’s still this resistance thing. This is not because some people just haven’t yet clued in to how great change is. If you want to create change by having more of something and somebody else wants to create change by having less of something, you each see yourself as working for change, and you each see the other as resisting change. So resistance is not just a matter of being pig-headed or dim.

Resistance is the voice that says, no, not THAT change. There really is a lot that’s good about the way life is right now. And if you’re wondering why people resist your brilliant ideas for new ways to do things, it’s because they sense – as we all sometimes sense – that change is spelled L-O-S-S. What one person wants to change is what somebody else can’t bear to lose.

Learning and growing – transformation – does mean loss. The butterfly has to leave behind what was great about being a caterpillar.

The question of resistance is always those two questions. Is there something you’re resisting, and it’s time to stop resisting it? Is there something you haven’t been resisting, and it’s time to start resisting it?

Doctor Seuss’s most famous story is a story about resistance: Green Eggs and Ham. "No, no, no. No green eggs and ham. Not in a house, with a mouse, in box, with a fox, here or there or anywhere." Why such resistance? If he were resisting the mass-scale cruelty to pigs and chickens that industrial production of ham and eggs entails, that would be a worthy resistance indeed. But that’s evidently not the ground of this resistance. It seems he’s just not used to that color.

It’s natural to not like what we aren’t used to, and Dr. Seuss’s little story has helped generations of children be just a little more open to a new experience. As adults, too, we sometimes can use a little reminder that it’s often worth it to set aside the comforts of what we’re used to for the sake of open-ness to a new experience.

Next: Being intentional about choosing familiarity or choosing change
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This is part 1 of 3 of "Welcome to Resistance"
See also:
Part 2: Personality Shows Up When You Don't
Part 3: Roots of Unitarian Resistance

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