The Province III Junior High retreat took place this past weekend at St. Luke's Church in Germantown. Throughout our time together, we mulled over the various rules in our lives--what they are, how they've changed, and our responses (both positive and negative) when we're forced to adjust to different rules in new situations. On Saturday, we took a trip to the National Constitution Center to think about the rules that govern our country. As our own history reveals, rules and laws do not always benefit everyone equally. Often, in fact, rules are put in place specifically to deprive certain people of rights and benefits, and to raise others to a position of comfort or authority.
This, as we discussed, is probably why there is often so much resistance to change. Those who benefit from the rules of history and tradition become accustomed to their power, and are very reluctant to give it up. And, even if the established rules don't give us power over others, they give us the comfort of familiarity. When you know what the rules are, you can maintain the illusion that life is simple, controllable. You're free to walk through the world with confidence. The loss of this stability can be devastating, even it's ultimately good for us.
I believe these conversations were beneficial, for both the youth and the adults. As I'm sure anyone who works with youth knows (or, in fact, anyone who works with people at all knows), there are few things more frustrating than facing resistance when you try to enforce rules. But this weekend reminded me of something very important. Regardless of age or background, resistance to rules of often comes from a place of fear. Individuals may not realize that they're afraid, but the feeling certainly contributes to their actions. When the resistance seems petty and needless to us, the person on the other side sees a threat to their stability and routine. New rules feel like loss of control.
Of course, this does not mean that we should stop attempting to enforce rules that are good for us. Learning how to handle the discomfort of change is a fundamental aspect of maturity development. But this retreat reminded me that, no matter how frustrated I may become, empathy is paramount.