“People hate change.” Or, do they really?
The fact is that people do change. People grow up, they graduate high school, they graduate college, they change jobs when they are dissatisfied, they get married, they buy homes, they have families and they retire. If people hated change so much, they wouldn’t buy new clothes, new TVs, new cell phones or new cars.
In reality, people have inside themselves two opposing forces: the need for change and the need to maintain the status quo. This is why diets tend not to work. In spite of the need for change, often the desire for the status quo wins. You are fighting your own body, which is trying its best to maintain the same weight. In fact, it can even backfire to the point where more weight is gained because the pendulum swings too hard the other way. It can become a cycle of diet-weight gain-diet. However, there are some success stories as well because those people are willing to make the change and make it last.
However, people are very different from one another. What one is not willing to change under any circumstances, another might change at the drop of a hat. For example, I’ve often marveled at people who have never travelled outside their own city, let alone their state. It’s difficult for me to understand why someone would voluntarily never change their environment, even temporarily. Offer me some travel, with no strings attached (no bait-and-switch cruises for me, Richard!), and I would go without hesitation.
Of course, this is coming from someone who spent a total of almost 8 years in Germany (off and on, not at the same time, to boot). That’s my perspective, shaped by my experience.
However, it isn’t that people aren’t willing to change. It’s what they are willing to change.
One of the classical definitions of conservative is “disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditional ones, and to limit change.” Notice it is a “disposition”, not a hard and fast rule.
When conservatives talk of restoring “traditional values”, it is the viewpoint that the traditional way is best. The conservatives tend to be the “values candidates” because they want to maintain the value system of previous generations.
It actually takes energy to fight change. If you look at nature, change is inherent within the system. Soil erodes. Plants grow, and then they die. Different breeds of animals mate and produce yet another breed. It takes an effort to conserve the land. It takes an effort to cultivate the land. It takes effort to maintain a “pure” breed of cat, dog, horse, etc.
As a result, conservatives can be very hard working. In fact, hard work might even be one of the traditional values they want to maintain.
By contrast, a liberal is trying to push change. It used to be known as “effecting change”. “Change we can believe in” is another liberal slogan. I’ll get to the actual definition in a minute.
While conservatism takes energy to maintain things – typically all or most things – liberals tend to focus their energies upon one or two key items. People who want everything to change aren’t liberals in my book; they are, rather, anarchists.
Without liberalism, though, who would work for breaking the bonds of slavery in the world? Without change, who would feed the hungry? Who would try to get people to change their minds about going to war (whether it actually works or not is not the point here)?
One definition of liberal is “favorable to progress or reform, as in political or religious affairs.” Here is where the trouble starts. The focus is almost always on political and/or religious reform of some type.
Even worse, when you call someone “liberal” without any context, you don’t know if you are talking about politics, religion or even just taking a cruise.
Basically, the terms “conservative” and “liberal” have become political slurs as a result. Each side is coming at it from 180 directions, and each side views the other with suspicion.
However, “conservative” and “liberal” are not inherently good or evil. As I said before, each of these forces works within each one of us, and each of us determines which areas we desire change enough to do something about and which we do not.
These labels have become quite negative, but as I have pointed out, each side has some good characteristics. However, there are negatives as well, and we’ll look briefly at those in part 2.
* Note: Definitions come from dictionary.com unless otherwise specified.
This is an interesting topic, and I think you are absolutely right in saying that we have both a need for change and a need for the status quo, and that the kinds and amounts of change we need vary by individual. I remember reading the book "Future Shock" years ago, and it mentioned that there are certain personality types, and some people like more change than others. But for any person, too much change or too little change creates problems (moving, changing jobs, etc.) We function best when we have the balance between novelty and familiarity that is best for us individually.
When I was in Worldwide when Mr. Tkach was pastor general, I had a high tolerance for change, though I did not accept the changes. I didn't leave there until about mid-1996, more than a full year after the infamous January 1995 twin videos overturning the Sabbath, holy days, tithing, and clean and unclean meats. I was studying those issues, trying to have an open mind, all while I continued to keep the Sabbath, holy days, etc. I proved that the old teaching was right and the new teaching was wrong, but it took some time. But I wasn't emotionally upset as a lot of other members were during this period. Maybe deep down I was, but it wasn't sinking in emotionally to my conscious mind what a hideous, ugly, unclean thing was taking place in the Church at that time. It is hard to explain. Maybe I was too wrapped up in the interest and challenge of diving into intense Bible research as I did before coming into the Church.
But two things hit home emotionally. One was a very disrespectful article written about Mr. Armstrong in the Worldwide News about February 1996. I couldn't believe the way they talked about him. The other was my realization, once and for all, that the leaders in Worldwide thought they were being led by the Holy Spirit to believe things contrary to the Bible, or apart from the Bible. I recognized that kind of thinking from my Catholic upbringing, and that told me more than any particular doctrine that I needed to get out.
I remember one minister telling me that Mr. Tkach Jr. or Mr. Feasel or somebody told an assembly of ministers something to the effect, don't tell the members this, but there is doctrinal truth apart from the Bible, and you need to know what it is.
I can handle change, but it takes me a long time to process it.
I'm using this series for Bible study, going one post at a time.
"The only thing constant in life is change" – a quote HWA often attribtued to Elbert Hubbard.
Some people don't "hate" change so much as they have it forced upon them by life. Clothes wear out and become "hole-y"; TV stations make "the big switch" to digital; cars reach the point where repairs cost more than buying a new one.
Some "traditional values" of conservatives are considered wrong by COG groups — such as the campaign in recent years to "save Christman."
And the Liberal title didn't stop WCG from having a congregation for years in Liberal, Kansas — a small city best known for the Shrove Tuesday pancake race. Members would joke at the Feast about "attending that Liberal church."
Check Strong's Concordance, and you'll find forms of the word "liberal" appear nine times — and they seem to be mostly in positive terms, even describing God's nature. The word "conservative" isn't there at all.