Our culture of violence requires adaptive change

I owned one gun in my life. It was a single shot 22-gauge rifle. My father gave it to me when I was around 12 years old. I sold it to a friend for his grandson 16 years later.

In the county in which I grew up you could not fire a rifle except on a licensed firing range. The population in that urban area was too dense to allow otherwise. Too many accidents had happened with too many tragic endings.

You could own one or more rifles. You could have ammunition for one or more rifles. You just could not shoot them in this county outside of a controlled environment.

One time my father and I went to the next county to go hunting–me with my 22-gauge rifle and Dad with his 12-gauge shotgun. Otherwise my gun was used for target practice on occasion.

I sold it the year my oldest child was born. By then I had decided I did not want a gun in my house. My friend only used his guns for hunting when he went home to Tennessee. He had a grandson he wanted to teach how to shoot a gun. I was glad to let him have it.

As a result of recent violent and highly emotional incidents in the USA involving guns and resulting in numerous deaths, I hope our country is now ready to deal with the overall issue of our violent culture. It is not a simple issue. It is a complex issue. It is one that requires adaptive change more than technical change.

Adaptive versus technical change was popularized by Ron Heifetz in his book Leadership Without Easy Answers [Harvard University Press, 1998], and other books and efforts that have followed.

Technical change tends to address tactics needed to resolve a clearly defined issue. Actions change voluntarily or by new rules or laws, but the same culture is reinforced. The past to present understandings are still in place, and people primarily resist the loss of accepted cultural patterns. People resist change out of a fear of loss, and emotion is used to rally people to the cause. Issues are seen from an either/or perspective.

Examples of technical change are laws that specifically govern what type of guns and ammunition are legal and illegal, how many murders can be shown on television each day, rating movies as prohibiting attendance by people under 18 according to a violence factor, rating video games the same way, and many others.

We need some technical change, but it needs to come out of an umbrella set of policies that form an adaptive change approach.

Adaptive change tends to look at the whole picture, the future, and what new learning or understanding is needed. It realizes that even defining the issue and solution is an unclear journey. It is more difficult to make adaptive change, and it takes longer. Too many people are impatient. Emphasized in adaptive change are the benefits of moving forward; rather than the fear of loss. Dialogue is around an and/both perspective.

What are the root causes of violence in our society? I am not sure I can name all of them, but we need to talk about them. How can we address them while also affirming the Second Amendment rights of our citizens? I hope we can find a basis for collaboration and not just the shallowness of compromise.

Yes, we can lower the violence quotient in our society, and yes we can protect the Second Amendment rights of our citizens. These are not mutually exclusive goals. They just take an emotional maturity that is lacking in many places in our society.

Adaptive change affirms that everyone is a person of worth created in the image of God to live and to love. As such everyone needs to feel safe and loved. At times the protection they need is from themselves. So, yes, about violence in the media, mental health issues, the availability and regulation of guns and ammunition, let’s have civility that balances freedom and responsibility.

Cries of defending the Second Amendment are simply an emotional way to control the dialogue. They are the tactics of people a little too low on Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs pyramid. Let’s commit to raise the level of emotional maturity in our society to where we can collaborate around complex issues rather than debate the issues and seek to verbally destroy one another.

Please, let’s do so before someone feels like we need to get our guns out to settle this issue!

George Bullard

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About the Author
George is President of The Columbia Partnership at www.TheColumbiaPartnership.org, This is a Christian ministry organization that seeks to transform the North American Church for vital and vibrant ministry. It primarily does this through the FaithSoaring Churches Learning Community. See www.ConnectWithFSCLC.info. George is the author of three books: Pursuing the Full Kingdom Potential of Your Congregation, Every Congregation Needs a Little Conflict, and FaithSoaring Churches. George is also General Secretary [executive coordinator] of the North American Baptist Fellowship at www.NABF.info. This is one of the six regions of the Baptist World Alliance. George holds is Senior Editor of TCP Books at www.TCPBooks.info. More than 30 books have been published on congregational leadership issues.

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  • RonRiml

    George – You hit the nail right on the head when you ascribed the problem to ” the tactics of people a little too low on Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs pyramid.”
    Is it really security they seek, though?  Or the acquisition of firearms simply because they may – and then ascribe the justification to ‘security’ nullifiying all other reasons?