Do you know what a “paradigm shift” is? It must be a fairly important concept to understand. When I looked up the word “paradigm” in the dictionary to give you a definition, I actually found “paradigm shift” in the dictionary. I expected to find “paradigm,” but not “paradigm shift.”paradigm shiftnouna fundamental change in approach or underlying assumptions.I believe the term probably became worthy of a space in the dictionary when The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey was published.Here’s the example of a paradigm shift he shares in the book:
I remember a mini-paradigm shift I experienced one Saturday morning on a subway in New York. People were sitting quietly—some reading newspapers, some lost in thought, some resting with their eyes closed. It was a calm, peaceful scene.
Then suddenly, a man and his children entered the subway car. The children were so loud and rambunctious that instantly the whole climate changed.
The man sat down next to me and closed his eyes, apparently oblivious to the situation. The children were yelling back and forth, throwing things, and even grabbing people’s papers. It was very disturbing. And yet, the man sitting next to me did nothing.
It was difficult not to feel irritated. I could not believe that he could be so insensitive as to let his children run wild like that and do nothing about it, taking no responsibility at all. It was easy to see that everyone else on the subway felt irritated, too. So finally, with what I felt was unusual patience and restraint, I turned to him and said, “Sir, your children are really disturbing a lot of people. I wonder if you couldn’t control them a little more?”
The man lifted his gaze as if to come to a consciousness of the situation for the first time and said softly, “Oh, you’re right. I guess I should do something about it. We just came from the hospital where their mother died about an hour ago. I don’t know what to think, and I guess they don’t know how to handle it either.”
Can you imagine what I felt like at that moment? My paradigm shifted. Suddenly I saw things differently. I felt differently, I behaved differently. My irritation vanished. I didn’t have to worry about controlling my attitude or behavior; my heart was filled with the man’s pain. Feelings of sympathy and compassion flowed freely. “Your wife just died? Oh, I’m so sorry! Can you tell me about it? What can I do to help?”
Everything changed in an instant.
Did it give you chills to read that story?Not to completely stereotype myself, but I grew up as a Southern-Baptist-only-child-goody-two-shoes kind of girl. My life was wonderful. I succeeded at most anything I attempted, and I held myself to very high standards. You know…the perfectionist. While I am grateful to my parents for the wonderful childhood I had, being a perfectionist did not serve me well.
When my world was turned up side down with the onset of grand-mal seizures and the following drug addiction, I spiraled into adeep depression. I really believe I could have handled the seizures and all the came along with them—no driving, no bathtub/swimming alone, bumps and bruises—but the fact that I “allowed myself” to end up addicted to pain medication was just too much. It was the infamous straw that broke the camel’s back.
The thing was, when I finally admitted to the world that I’d had an addiction, so many people said, “Of all the people I thought could become a drug addict, I never would have believed it would be you.” And I say, “Me either!”Anytime I had to go to the hospital for anything (usually seizures, but once a bad stomach bug I picked up in Florida), I told them no narcotics because I had been addicted. Now, this was after I got off the Lortab. While I was still struggling, I welcomed pain meds at the hospital! Anyway, as soon as I was labeled an “addict,” I was treated differently. And no, it was not in my imagination.Its really funny—and yet not so funny—how God gave me a serious paradigm shift. For the first fourteen years I worked as a pharmacist, I was judgmental of my customers who came in every month for pain medicine. I didn’t want to be, but I couldn’t help it. I could not understand how they were so dependent and desperate for their pain pills every month. WOW did I get some empathy lessons. My perspective changed completely when I learned first hand how they felt. I found myself walking in their shoes.So my challenge for you today is to not be judgmental. Let God be the only judge. Know that no matter how a situation seems, there is always more than meets the eye. When you find yourself passing judgment, remember that God loves everyone, and he is the only judge. It’s very freeing to be able to love people for the messed up humans they are, and let God do the judging!
Don’t wait for something to shift your paradigm, shift it yourself.
From my heart,