What is the difference between transformation and just acting differently? I’ve been thinking a lot about that lately. I am a Christ-Follower so I began my exploration from a spiritual angle. Living in Christ’s Presence, a book by Dallas Willard and John Ortberg, has challenged me. Here is a great quote:
Spiritual transformation is different than behavior modification…If the inner stream of somebody’s thoughts and feelings don’t get changed, we will never get good enough at suppressing behavior to be transformed people.
There is something in those words that rings like truth in my ears: Our actions and behaviors must follow from the reality of what we are on the inside or they will never be sustainable. I can try to be friendly to people and even string a lot of pleasant conversations and kind deeds together; but, until my actions are born from a truly loving heart, I’ll soon lapse. I cannot sustain on the outside what is not true on the inside. I believe that is an incredibly important fact. Transform the heart and the behavior will follow.
We cannot fill ourselves with ugliness, negative thoughts, and selfish intentions expecting that our behaviors will not follow suit. On the contrary, the well we dig in the depths of our inner selves will produce the water that flows from our outer selves…bitter or sweet, life-giving or poison. I can’t say with 100% certainty, but my guess is that no one can long mask the reality of their heart. You may be able to do it for a time, maybe even a long time, but, sooner or later, truth will win over fiction. The challenge, then, is to find those things that transform your essence.
A word to leaders: Before we can build culture that creates health, we have to build integrated lives. We have to be sure that what we are doing is a fair representation of what we are becoming. If it is true that we cannot sustain behaviors that are vastly different from our hearts, then the first order of business is to be what we desire to show. We cannot ignore our inner health. We cannot believe that our hearts and minds are disconnected from our behaviors and leadership. For our own well-being and the health of others, we have to seek personal change at the heart-level. This individual transformation is the only way to sustain institutional transformation.
So, what are we doing to be fundamentally changed? What are you reading? What are you watching? Who speaks into your life? How are you being transformed? And, a last thought: We ARE being transformed. We’re all under construction. What we take in, think about, store up…it is transforming us. What we will become tomorrow is substantively different than what we were yesterday. Here is one more quote from Willard and Ortberg:
We all will live by default or by design.