3.3. Why We Avoid the Burden of Change

Of course, people don’t want to assume the burden of change if they don’t have to. But there’s more to it than that.

Here’s an interesting question.

How does the process of working for social justice—a goal that’s supposed to be oriented toward the collective good—instead end up with so many people conveniently advocating for what benefits them or the groups they identify with personally?

Are people really that selfish and cynical?

Or is there some sneaky, insidious process that tricks generally goodhearted people into thinking they’re working for the common good…when, in fact, they’re really more concerned with their own narrow interests?

I think it’s the latter. And I think it’s important to understand how it works, so we can avoid falling into that trap, and help out others who’ve fallen into it.

Everybody has their own individual goals. And everybody but sociopaths also want this world to be as good as it can possibly be.

Who doesn’t want the greatest possible abundance of health, happiness, peace, prosperity, love, joy, and all that good stuff—for themselves and for everybody else in the world?

But making the world as good as it can be means change. And change means at least some of us are going to have to assume the burden of change.

This dilemma over who needs to change, and how, and why—is what we seem to always end up arguing over.

Of course, people don’t want to assume the burden of change if they don’t have to. But there’s more to it than that.

Almost all of us have an above-average opinion of ourselves. Rightly or wrongly, we feel like we mostly get things right.

So we come to the table expecting that maybe we’ll have to make some minor adjustments…but not at all expecting to have to make major changes.

In fact, we reason, if somebody tries to tell me I have to make major changes…they must be wrong.

And, if I know I don’t have to make major changes…that must mean that somebody else, or some other group of people, needs to accept that responsibility.

So now, everybody refuses to believe they need to make major changes…and is working hard to figure out who does.

Everybody equates, in their heads, the goal of the common good and the goal of scapegoating somebody else…even though those goals are totally at odds with each other.

That’s how we all initially come together with good intentions…but end up bickering over who’s to blame, treating every imposition as if it’s a huge injustice.

How should we handle this instead? By accepting that everyone needs to share the burden of change.

It’s fine to make a respectful, well-reasoned argument how and why some other people need to change their behavior, in order to make this world as good as it can be. But if you aren’t also accepting and articulating your responsibility, then you aren’t collaborating in good faith. You’re looking for a convenient scapegoat.

Nobody gets to avoid the work of making this world as good as it can be. Nobody gets to just sit around and make the rest of the world revolve around their beliefs, their traditions, or their culture.

Stop playing hot potato with the burden of change.

Let’s accept our common responsibilities…and figure out how to change together.


This is the 47th in a series of over 150 videos about how to create real, lasting social change. Click here for a list of all titles, videos, and transcripts.

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