Most of us can think of situations – of things in our own lives or in the lives of people around us – we would love to see transformed.
Transformation isn’t just something that happens around us. We can bring about transformation by changing the way we see the world, by changing our minds. But this doesn’t happen by sitting on our own, thinking. It happens in our daily actions and relationships with other people.
Two things need to happen for us to be transformed. Firstly, our perspective needs to be challenged. Hearing something completely new, being taken aback, surprised or even shocked by someone’s behaviour or something you see or hear can make you question the way you think and see the world.
Secondly, we need to know that we are loved and accepted as we are. It can be scary to have your thinking challenged. If we feel that we’re totally wrong about everything, we feel bad and can become defensive, hiding to protect ourselves. Rather than changing our mind, we just feel worse about ourselves.
If we are offered love and acceptance, however, it builds our confidence. We come to realise that it’s not that we’re all bad, more that we aren’t thinking straight in this one area. This gives us the courage to take a risk and try something new. We’re more likely to re-examine our viewpoint and change it, because we know that whatever happens we are loved and accepted for who we are.
Here is an example of transformation in action. I recently interviewed a woman – we’ll call her Hannah – who told me about her move to a council estate where she was joining an outreach team with the local church. Hannah expected life on the estate to be really difficult, and she expected to be living with vandalism and antisocial behaviour. Her view of council estates was a totally negative one.
But when I met with Hannah some time later, she described how, through getting to know people on the estate, making friends and being welcomed by the community, she had gradually changed her mind. Hannah now loves where she lives. She acknowledges that there are some challenges in the community but she knows first-hand that there are lots of really good people, that it’s a great place to live.
In Hannah’s story, her previous perspective was challenged by the people she met and her experience. Because of the warm welcome from her neighbours and their acceptance – and love – she was enabled to overcome the barriers she had set up. It transformed her.
Challenging our perspective and knowing that we’re loved happens can only happen through our relationships with others and real life experiences. Transformation is something which happens to us all together as a community as we accompany each other through life, sharing our differences and loving and accepting each other.
Anna Ruddick is a Community Engagement Associate for Livability, having been involved in urban and community ministry since 2005. She is currently researching perceptions of transformation in urban communities for a Doctorate in Practical Theology at the University of Chester. She lives in Leicester with her husband, Andrew.