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Growth Groups by Howard J. Clinebell, Jr.


Howard J. Clinebell, Jr. Is Professor of Pastoral Counseling at the School of Theology at Claremont, California (1977). He is a member of the American Association of Marriage and Family Counselors, and the American Association of Pastoral Counselors. He is a licensed marriage, child and family counselor in the State of California. His personal website is http://members.aol.com/clinebellh/index.htm, and his email address is clinebellH@aol.com. Growth Groups was published by Abingdon, Nashville TN, 1977. Used by permission. This material was prepared for Religion Online by Ted & Winnie Brock.


Chapter 10: Training Change Agents to Humanize Society


Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.

A great revolution is taking place in our world, a social revolution in the minds and souls of men. And it has been transformed into a unified voice, crying out, "We want to be free."

Martin Luther King1

Enthusiasm for growth groups and their philosophy of self-actualization can dull awareness of the need to eliminate social evils. It can diminish a sense of social responsibility precisely because the goal -- individual growth -- is so important. But, if enthusiasm for individual-actualization is misused as an excuse for privitism, the long-range results will be growth-stifling for everyone on the planet.

Releasing the people dynamic in individuals, awakening unused potentialities, and enlivening intimate relationships are all tremendously important -- but not the total task. For while this is being accomplished with ten people, a thousand will have their dreams of a full life mangled by racism, poverty, pollution, social injustice, political tyranny, and the population crush. Individual growth is short-lived unless institutional changes undergird personal change. We must work to produce personal growth that will energize social change, and social change that will nurture and support personal growth.

The new life-power produced in groups must be hooked to action for social change. Growth groups need not be used as psychological fiddling while the world burns. They can contribute to a people-serving society by generating a robust sense of social responsibility. Because they can combine growth and action objectives, growth groups constitute a major resource for social change.

A Unified Model of Growth-Change

Here is a unified model of the interrelated spheres of activity of growth and change agents.

 

Which change/growth methods are useful in each sphere of this target? Education, counseling, psychotherapy, and growth groups can produce change in individuals (circle 1). Relationship-oriented counseling methods (couple marriage counseling, family therapy) and growth groups are viable instruments of change within the intimate relationships of circle 2. In circle 3 (the supportive relationships just beyond the family) and circle 4 (other small groups), dynamic education, group therapy, and growth groups are effective methods. Changes in circle 5 (larger, more impersonal organizations ) and circle 6 ( the systems beyond the local community) may occur through educational persuasive approaches, but often they require the use of political methods.

Personal growth, we have seen, occurs in relationships where there is both caring (acceptance, relatedness) and confrontation (with reality, the consequences of one's behavior, etc.). All change activity involves varying ratios of these two elements. Growth groups aimed at holding these in even balance are effective in the smaller systems ( circles 1 through 4 ). Effecting change in larger systems (circles 5 and 6) and between systems usually involves a greater use of confrontation in the form of political and economic power,

Any social system, by definition, is more than the sum of its parts. Families, groups, and organizations have identities and internal dynamics which mark them as unique social organisms. Operating in such organisms are forces ( called "group dynamics") which are more than a composite of the forces motivating individual members. To improve institutions, methods which take these dynamics into account must be used. Change within any system depends on interaction with other systems. On the target of systems (above), change in one circle is more likely to occur and be permanent if the systems on one or both sides also change. To illustrate, individual growth is more likely to occur and be sustained if the family also changes constructively; family changes are more likely to occur and be sustained if the extended family changes to support them; growth in all three is more likely to occur and be sustained if the institutions of society are growth-oriented. Movement toward a person-enhancing world community requires simultaneous action for change in each sphere on the target.

Growth Groups: Instruments of Social Change

Social change activities aim at improving our institutions so they will serve our needs more fully. John Gardner, former head of the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, states the challenge: `'The true task is to design a society (and institutions) capable of continuous change, continuous renewal, continuous responsiveness to human need."2 In creating such a need-satisfying society, growth groups play an important role.

The process of social change includes five steps.3 Here are some ways growth groups can help implement these:

Step 1: Recruitment and Training of an Action Task Force -- The most efficient instrument for social change is a trained action group with a realistic and specific change target. To change any organization requires team effort. Growth group methods are useful in training the team.

(a) Awakening awareness of the need for action: Team members are more likely to persist when the going gets rough if they are motivated by, an awareness of the suffering caused by the injustice they are fighting. Firsthand confrontation with the victims of social and economic oppression can awaken this crucial awareness.

"Project Understanding" was a two-year effort by teams of theological students, laymen, and clergymen to devise methods for reducing White racism in suburban congregations.4 The training of participants included plunges into the inner city and encounters with Black and Brown rage. The deeply personal learnings which resulted came from confrontations with the victims of social exploitation and from the debriefing in small rap sessions. Important insights included an awareness of the depth of pain and anger of ghetto residents and the realization that the political and economic keys to the ghetto "prisons" are usually held by white hands in the suburbs.

This model of learning is the experience-reflection-conceptualization-action approach. Beginning with the swirl of feelings, ideas, and impressions from the encounter, the small group encourages critical reflection and sharing of feelings; this may lead to the discovery of principles and action-goals implicit in the experience. Without the growth group, anxiety from direct encounters with injustice-bred rage often produces defensiveness rather than openness to new understanding.

An important aspect of growth which groups can facilitate is an awareness of one's own hidden prejudices. A training group of Caucasian clergymen and mental health professionals used this awareness exercise:

Close your eyes so that you can be more aware of your experiences. Imagine a movie screen within your mind. On it picture yourself looking in a mirror . . . Now picture yourself getting into bed and going to sleep . . . Now you are getting up and walking to the mirror. As you look at yourself, you suddenly realize that your face has changed to that of a Negro . . . How do you feel as a Black? . . . how does your family feel? . . . the person who's planning to marry your son or daughter? . . . Picture yourself going to work . . . having friends over . . . buying a house . . . Now, picture yourself going to bed again and falling asleep . . . Now you are getting up . . . looking in the mirror. You discover that your face is that of a White person again. How do you feel about this change?

Debriefing revealed that many of the participants had become aware of race-related feelings -- shock, fear, expectation of rejection, vulnerability, confusion, inferiority as a Black, relief at being White again, and guilt about these responses.5 This group was relatively free of conscious prejudices and was dedicated to racial justice. Yet if their hidden feelings had not been discovered and dealt with, they could have sabotaged their best efforts at social change.

This exercise is useful for gaining awareness of other attitudinal blind spots:

In a male/female liberation group: "See yourself in the mirror as a member of the opposite sex . . ."

In an interfaith group: "See yourself as a Catholic, etc."

In a middle-class group: "See yourself as a lifelong welfare recipient . . ."

In a training-for-caring group: "See yourself as terminally ill . . ."

In an all-Christian group: "See yourself as a Jew . . ." (Hindu, atheist)

These self-confrontations through fantasy offer opportunities for changing relationship-damaging attitudes through group interaction. The world of many people is one of walls without windows. This approach opens windows of communication through the walls within and between us.

(b) Equipping change agents with skills: Social actionists often stumble over their own ineptness in communication and relationships, and their ambivalence about risk-taking and aggressiveness.

Training action teams for Project Understanding began with an intensive weekend at a mountain camp, utilizing a combination of growth groups and communication exercises. The purpose was to increase depth-relating and honest confrontation among the trainees and to provide a model of how to use small groups as instruments of change in churches. Educative-persuasive change methods were emphasized. (Subsequent training at the urban action center focused on negotiation and conflict models of social change, involving the constructive uses of bargaining, political and economic power.)

The training in interpersonal skills sought to enhance these characteristics, seen as necessary for effective social action: the ability to risk (stick one's neck out), use one's aggressiveness appropriately (not be helpless), take responsibility (not pass the buck), work in team problem-solving (not be a lone operator), communicate clearly and with punch, establish a connection with others, listen to what others are saying and feeling, be action- as well as reflection-oriented, and deal constructively with interpersonal conflict. In the training, gaming or simulation of a conflict between subgroups introduced the trainees to intergroup problems in social change.

Interpersonal skill training in growth groups is only part of preparation for effective social action. It is, however, an essential and often-neglected part. (Because of the overlapping of skills required in personal caring and in social action, it is productive to train persons for both activities in the same groups. This was one finding of a pilot project involving fifteen lay training groups.) (The project was funded by the W. Clement and Jessie V. Stone Foundation at the School of Theology, Claremont, Calif. 1970-71.)

 

(c) Team Building: To work together efficiently, an action task force needs a sturdy sense of mutual openness and trust. A sense of solidarity is essential when the flack begins to fly -- from vested interests which resist changes threatening to their privileges. Awareness and communication exercises in the early phases of an action-growth group are useful in team-building. Both interpersonal relationship marathons and urban "plunges" (a weekend in the ghetto) increase group cohesiveness dramatically in training laymen for social action. An action group should operate with person-respecting methods so that it contributes to its members' growth as it accomplishes its social change objectives. Shared decision-making, collaborative planning, frequent evaluation, and replanning based on this feedback are examples of such methods.

Training groups in twenty-eight churches constituted "Project Laity," designed to help laymen become more involved in the structures and decisions of their communities. The twelve groups which completed training demonstrated that "the development of trust emerges from the confrontation of conflict" within the group.6 Groups which avoided facing their internal conflict developed much less intimacy and trust. Only where trust developed did groups engage in significant social action. Without such a base, it is almost impossible for most individuals even to conceive of themselves as potentially effective in solving social problems. Participants in the twelve groups completing the training pointed to personal growth resulting from freedom of communication, self-expression, and mutual support -- as the major satisfaction they derived.

Step 2: Understanding the problem and deciding on action goals. Obtaining and interpreting information about social problems are essential aspects of social change in which the small group should be involved. Collecting information often involves direct exposure to problems; this tends to reinforce motivation to take constructive action. One social action group in New York, as a result of the shocking facts about living conditions learned during a door-to-door survey in a slum area, became "fired up" about the need for low-cost housing. Understanding complex social problems (including resources and resistance to change) is best achieved by utilizing the group's total brain-power and experience in subcommittees with specific tasks. As understanding emerges in the group process, alternative action goals will become apparent. Decision-making about which goal(s) to implement should involve the whole group; otherwise it is unlikely that participants will support the action with gut-level commitment. If a project is to "fly," differences of opinion among task force members must be faced and discussed openly until areas of agreement are found.

Step 3: Formulating action strategy. Decisions about how to accomplish the goals, how to use resources, acquire allies, and divide responsibilities should also be made via the group process. Everyone must know that his views are valued by the group and that he is "in" on developing the plans he will be asked to implement. Growth in the ability to work as a team toward shared goals occurs as the group uses person-respecting methods at each stage.

Step 4: Action. During the action phase, it is important to maintain open communication among task force members so that misunderstandings, duplication of efforts, and working at cross-purposes will not impede effectiveness. Frequent opportunities to communicate and resolve conflicts within the team are essential.

When social-change goals involve building bridges between estranged groups, confrontation methods are useful. Racial confrontation groups have been used widely by schools, churches, and police departments. Several high schools in Portland sponsored three interracial encounter weekends at a center overlooking the Columbia River. Led by a psychologist, the youth, teachers, and graduate students spent most of the weekends in confrontation groups of fifteen. Various trust and communication exercises were used. According to reports from the schools, the aim of the project -- to reduce racial tensions by building trust and communication -- seemed to have been realized.

A twenty-four-hour confrontation marathon was co-led by Price Cobbs and George Leonard for fourteen persons including a White policeman, a Black welfare mother, a Black Vietnam veteran, a well-to-do White matron, and a Black Panther. The early hours were dominated by the Blacks, demanding honesty from each other -- "getting the brothers together."

To get the whites together . . . to get them out of the armor built by lifetimes of rationalization is not so easy. We spent hours working with a young white liberal. He starts out very Christian, full of love for all humanity.... The blacks don't trust his bland assurances; they sense he has no access to his real feelings. We all stay with him, digging for a level of reality beneath that iron-plated, liberal-Christian armor. At last, we are all with him as he shouts his hatred at every black in the room, at some of the whites. The sound rises in Wagnerian crescendo. It is frightening, wildly hilarious, and somehow liberating. The sound deafens, but it is a better sound than sirens and riot guns. It is the sound of truth, a rare thing these days.7

There was no attempt to "integrate" the group. "Let the blacks get blacker, the whites whiter, the browns browner. Let every man be himself in full." When this occurs and the group has gone through the anger and denunciation, a spontaneous outpouring of love follows. A Black Panther pins his "I'm Black and Proud" button on a White doctor (who had shown an unusual amount of soul), proclaiming him an "honorary nigger." Application of learnings outside the group is stressed: "If something is learned, if a heart is changed, we urge the change be reflected on the job, in the community, in politics."

The target picked by one Project Understanding team was developing racial understanding and awareness in elementary education in two suburban school districts. In-service training series for teachers (with academic credit from a state university) were held; these included:

Part 1 -- Racial Awareness Exposure, which consisted of a Friday night/ Saturday plunge-encounter in the minority community.

Part 2 -- New White Consciousness Seminar (15 1/2 hours) using simulation, small group interaction, and lectures to cultivate new perspectives on White identity gained from the exposure.

Part 3 -- A four-hour Follow-Up Workshop held in the schools where the teachers work -- for evaluation and further applications of learnings to their job problems.

This approach awakens awareness of the problems faced by minorities and nurtures the emergence of a person-respecting White identity based on self-esteem.8

Growth groups are also useful for interrupting the vicious cycle of individual and social problems. Project ENABLE(Education and Neighborhood Action for Better Living Environment) trained some two hundred indigenous nonprofessionals and two hundred professionals in group family life education and neighborhood action methods for use with low-income families. The goal was to eliminate the effects of chronic poverty on families -- effects which tend to perpetuate the poverty cycle. Some eight hundred parents' groups were established in sixty-two communities, involving fifteen thousand low-income parents. Discussion in the parents' groups centered on their children, community facilities, their own adequacy as parents, how to communicate with their children, control their own emotions in handling them, and raise them to be law-abiding citizens. Project ENABLE helped families learn how to take initiative and make decisions in matters affecting their welfare. The parents worked together on some three hundred neighborhood improvement projects aimed at getting better housing, recreational facilities, police protection, health care, and closer relations with schools and welfare programs. This project shows that personal growth and social action objectives must be integrated in groups designed to help persons extricate themselves from the web of chronic poverty. It demonstrates that "poor families can be helped to overcome isolation and despair by solving difficult family and community problems together."9

Step 5: Evaluation and restrategizing. Social action teams should evaluate their goals/strategies/actions with the openness and honesty which characterize growth groups. Maximum learning from both successes and failures occurs in such an atmosphere. Reformulation of goals and restrategizing develop out of the group evaluative process.

The action training center in a Pacific Northwest city sponsored a series of courses on strategies for urban social action. Several task groups evolved from these; their goal was to raise the level of concern on the city council by working to elect candidates aware of urban problems. After the election (in which the goals were largely achieved), the action training center sponsored a "weekend away" for those who had been intensely involved. The objectives were to reflect on the recent election, decide what goals to seek next, plan strategy, and replenish energies for the new effort.

Intergroup Polarization and Communication

Social change often involves conflicts and communication problems between various groups, each with its own identity, values, commitments, goals, and power dynamics. It is essential, therefore, to be aware of the dynamics of intergroup conflict. The following communication exercise can be productive in the training or the action steps of social change. It is effective with any two groups committed to contrasting values. Here is how it is used in training adult leaders for youth growth groups.

The training group is divided in half; those on one side are told:

"Whatever your actual age, for this exercise you are part of the youth counter culture. You have long hair, beads and bare feet. You believe passionately in the things these youth see as important. Review these values in your mind and recall how young people feel about them. Let yourself move inside their world; feel the way they feel."

Those on the other side are told:

"Whatever your actual age, for this experience you are part of middle America. You've over forty and can remember the great depression. You are involved in the institutions of your community. You feel strongly that the basic values of our society are important and must be preserved. You carry heavy responsibilities -- on your job, in the community, and in coping with being middle aged and parents of teen-agers. Think about the things that are most important to you and how you feel about them."

After a pause to let each side get inside the roles, the leader says: "I invite you to turn your chairs toward the other group . . . Now will you adults tell these young people the things that really matter to you." As the "adults" talk to the "youth," the leader lists the values they mention (on newsprint or a blackboard). If the "youth" are in their roles, they'll take only a few minutes of what usually registers as condescending, self-righteous adult pronouncements. If they don't begin to talk back spontaneously, after a few minutes, the leader invites them to "tell these adults how it is as you see it." The "youth" values are listed beside those of the "adults."

The temperature of the exchange usually soars. Before long, each side is "lobbing hand grenades," as one participant put it. After the polarization has increased and the verbal battle has escalated, the leader interrupts, asking those on either side how they are feeling. Frequently present are anger at not being heard or understood, alienation, and the impulse to attack more vigorously.

After debriefing, the sides are reversed. The leader describes the two roles again, and the exchange about "what's really important" continues, usually with polarization in reverse. After awhile this phase is debriefed thoroughly. The anger level is lowered as the process is discussed. Then the leader asks: "Are there other ways to communicate -- ways that might result in more messages getting through?" Back in their second roles, group members try to build bridges rather than barriers. Coaching from the leader may be necessary -- e.g., "Try stating how you feel . . . without making a disguised attack." or "Could you let the other side know you hear what they're saying?" Continue until some success in connecting across the youth-adult communication chasm is achieved.( Dividing "youth" and "adults" into mixed groups of four to six, during part of this exercise, lets them experience the striking differences between larger group-to-group and more intimate person-to-person communication.)

This exercise is useful in adult and youth workshops and in adult-youth growth groups. When the two groups are actually present, skilled facilitators are needed to coach both sides in communication skills. Take plenty of time to work through and learn from the rich, powerful feelings stirred up by this exercise. Whenever possible, the technique should be employed at the start of a several-day laboratory session in conflict-resolution or communication so that the groups can move beyond polarization.

There are some learning-growth experiences which emerge from this process: ( 1 ) The group experiences the value-gulf alienating two conflicting groups. (2) It participates in the powerful experience of group polarization and the kinds of communication which produce it -- e.g., attacking, not listening, "telling" the other side, we're-right-you're-wrong messages, etc. ( 3) The role reversal develops awareness of the important values on both sides of the gulf and awareness of one's own ambivalence regarding the two value worlds. (4) Participants can discover and practice styles of communication that reduce polarization and increase understanding -- owning and expressing one's own needs rather than trying to convert the other, listening with understanding, etc. (5) If the group learns these bridge-building skills, it can break out of the win-lose struggle and achieve a degree of difference-respecting, collaborative intergroup relationships.

Motivating Adults to Action

Without glamorizing the motives of youth, it is important to recognize that many young people have awakened to pro-people values and life-styles which can have a salutary influence on our society. Depth youth-adult encounters in small groups may help create a society that weds the viable from the past with new humanizing relationships and institutions.

Joseph Fletcher observes that although the "compassion quotient" of most adults in our bourgeois culture is low, they do care intensely about their children -- who in turn care intensely about poverty, racism, ecology, and war.10 He sees this as a potential lever to motivate adults to become involved in desperately needed social action. I would add that transgenerational confrontation/communication groups can help develop shared commitments to values and action which will improve our sick society. There are important values on each side of the generation gap -- values which need to be brought together to help persons achieve a full life in a free society.

Ecology Growth Groups

The need for groups with a dual focus on personal growth and social change is illustrated by the crisis in our environment. Reflect for a moment on a few familiar facts: The endangered wildlife list now stands at a record 101 species in the United States -- mammals, birds, fish, amphibians, and reptiles facing extinction. Each year we spew 183 million tons of contaminants into our fragile envelope of air. Many of our rivers are open sewers. Each week the world has 1,396,000 new mouths to feed, a large proportion in the poorer nations. Almost half of the world's 3.6 billion human beings are undernourished or malnourished. By 1985, if noise pollution trends continue, people more than two feet apart on an average urban street corner will have to scream to be heard. One student of the current scene states: "We seem to be quite capable of polluting ourselves out of meaningful existence. All we have to do is to continue with our most thoughtless present practices.''11 It's frighteningly obvious to thoughtful persons that the human race -- equipped with the bomb, the engine, and other fruits of technology; with arrogant disregard for nature and for other animals; and with a tragically immature social conscience -- is itself on the endangered species list.

The delicate balance among and between all living things and their environment (the ecosystem) has been upset by man, particularly affluent western man with his technology and resource-gobbling living standard. (An average American uses up natural resources at a rate fifty times greater than that of an average person in India.) If we care at all about the kind of world in which our children and grandchildren will live, our values, relations with nature, and destructive life-styles must be drastically reoriented. We can no longer ignore the fact that we are part of the delicate balance of living things. The quality of our lives will depend increasingly on respecting this profound fact.

Growth-action groups can help us simultaneously develop sensitive ecological consciences and carry out social action to save the environment on which all life depends. As Arnold Toynbee once said, "The necessary condition for making technology bear fruit that will be sweet and not bitter is a spiritual change of heart. ."12 Such a change of heart is the goal of dynamic ecology education which must have high priority in schools, families, and churches. Three dimensions of growth are necessary in this process: comprehension of the crisis, conversion of our attitudes, and commitment of our consciences and behavior. The crisis is a struggle for survival; this can best be comprehended in study-action groups. Within these groups, attitudes toward nature can be transformed -- from arrogant, exploitative domination to respectful affinity with the natural world. Such change requires experiencing our organic bond with nature -- with the air, the ocean, and the earth; with all living things; and with the worldwide human family. In the words of the priest-scientist Teilhard de Chardin:

The world . . . to which we brought the boredom and callousness reserved for profane places, is in truth a holy place . . . Venite, adoremus.13

Commitment of our consciences means implementing life-respecting attitudes by earthy actions such as recycling wastes, reducing our greedy consumption of natural resources, and engaging in group efforts (e.g., economic boycotts and political action) to achieve practical ecological objectives.

Ecology awareness-action groups can help us, in Ralph Waldo Emerson's words, to "enjoy an original relation to the universe.''14 Perhaps you recall precious moments -- when you have been aware of such a relationship. I remember lying on the warm glacier-polished granite high on a mountain and feeling a strange connection between the rock and a primitive something in me. Or the moving moment of finding a fossil seashell near a peak in the Rockies more than 10,000 feet above the sea. Or the sunny day in spring when the growth forces all around in our garden seemed somehow to be flowing also through me. Discovering and renewing one's inner ties with nature are essential to maintaining enthusiasm for the ecological struggle. Lifelong love affairs with nature can be sparked by experiencing it with someone who is sensitive, informed, and alive to the wonders of the universe.

Sensitizing our individual consciences ecologically and practicing respect for the environment are essential starting places. But it is crucial to move beyond these to joint political action. In the long run only more enlightened laws and public policies can bring victory in the struggle. Local groups should ally themselves with the national ecology groups which are educationally and politically effective.

Every community has its pollution and ecology problems. A lay training-for-mission group in a Protestant church15 began by listening to their community and its needs. They decided that they "must work toward creating an ecological conscience in this church, community, and beyond." A sensitive physicist took them on a hike in the nearby mountains to experience "the livingness of nature which we seek to preserve." They read extensively and discussed the material. They related what they learned to their group's guiding beliefs -- by discovering biblical and theological foundations for good ecology. Their group-created strategy included these actions: establishing cooperative links with other churches and groups committed to ecology; developing a Center of Ecology Information and a paperback book table at the church; devising methods to reach decision-makers in the community; exploring the development of a coordinating council of all ecology groups active in that community -- Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth, Zero Population Growth, League of Conservation Voters, Wilderness Society, National Wildlife Federation, National Audubon Society, World Population, GASP (Group Against Smog Pollution), Planned Parenthood, etc. This group used an integrated growth-action approach working at both ends of the ecological crisis -- personal growth through a broad educational thrust and social change through community action.

Ecology and the Good Life

The ecological perspective provides a wide-angle lens for viewing the human potentials situation on our planet. As biologists Paul and Anne Ehrlich make clear,16 the diverse problems humanity faces -- overpopulation, war, widespread hunger, pollution, resource depletion -- all intertwine. Collectively they pose an unprecedented threat and challenge to all mankind. Unless the population explosion can be controlled, all measures to save the environment will be exercises in futility. Growth-action groups can make a small but significant contribution to defusing the "population bomb" at the personal level. Couples can discover ways to satisfy their needs for security, self-esteem and creativity other than by having many children. On a social action level, groups can work for objectives such as income tax incentives to reward small rather than large families and freely available family planning resources for everyone everywhere.

The ultimate pollutant is, of course, war. Until the monster weapons of the nuclear powers are controlled by world structures of peace and justice, mankind flirts daily with extinction. I recall a moving conversation with a Greek population biologist (whom I encountered on a recent plane trip). Commenting on the importance of the rising tide of respect for the environment, he observed: "But all our efforts in the ecology fight will be wasted unless we prevent the war that will pollute the whole earth in a day." I'm not claiming that a network of growth groups by itself will prevent a nuclear doomsday. But it can help by reducing the enormous reservoir of individual anger, frustration, and unlived life that fuels collective hostilities. Growth groups can help more and more of us increase our ability to live and to love. Loving people will support movements and leaders who are tuned to the people dynamic. Loving people, who are also politically skilled, can elect leaders who are genuine statesmen and peacemakers. Loving, open, growing people are best prepared to function as citizens of the world community with ultimate commitment to the human race.

Growth groups can also be used to build bridges of communication and empathy across the barriers that divide mankind -- the ethnic, racial, national, and political differences that isolate us from our fellow human beings, During several workshops on counseling in India, my wife and I led growth groups for participants. In spite of the vast differences in languages and cultures among group members and between them and us as leaders, remarkable things happened. We discovered that it was possible, in many cases, to transcend barriers of culture and touch each other's common humanity. That these groups (in what we had feared would be an unpromising setting) had an impact was clear in the responses of many participants. In the closing group evaluation period, one Indian priest said to a fellow priest, "We have been living, studying, and eating together in the same small seminary for nine years, yet I feel I've come to know you better in this group than in all that time."

The discovery that growth groups can be effective in another culture, even when led by "outsiders," strengthened our appreciation of the extraordinary power, usefulness, and adaptability of this method. It reinforced our belief that a significant contribution to world peace could be made by the widespread use of intercultural and international growth groups.

In the earlier chapters of this book, the thrust was on the development of the full potential of individuals in caring communities called growth groups. Individuals can develop their potentialities only as they experience a mutual fulfillment with other people. This can happen fully only as organizations and social structures support the life-style of personal growth. Thus, personal growth and social growth need each other. Furthermore, in finding one's cause and pouring oneself into it, a dimension of new growth becomes available. To paraphrase the words of a first-century carpenter: "A person who hoards his life will only exist, but one who invests himself gladly in efforts to create a better world will find the secret of life in its fullness."

For millions of us earthlings, the pictures of earth from thousands of miles in space give a fresh perspective on our human situation, Archibald MacLeish described it in these beautiful and now-familiar words:

To see the earth as it truly is, small and blue and beautiful in that eternal silence where it floats, is to see ourselves as riders on the earth together, brothers on that bright loveliness in the eternal cold -- brothers who know now that they are truly brothers.

Looking back toward the earth from near the moon, one spaceman declared wistfully, "It looks like a good place to live." In these words he expressed both a present truth and a challenge for the future. That's our task, humanizing our society -- economically, politically, interpersonally, religiously, environmentally -- so that it will be, in fact, a good place for everyone. Finding your unique role in helping to create a world society dedicated to human fulfillment can open a new chapter in your personal journey toward wholeness.

The "greening of America," of western society, of the world community, can only occur as we develop a generally available network of opportunities for experiencing the people dynamic -- the power of people to create and recreate themselves and each other in intimate relationships. The lethal destructiveness that erupts in a thousand forms of violence around the globe stems from the anger of loneliness, the guilt of massive unlived life, the despair of ever getting one's physical and emotional needs satisfied. Growth groups, in their many forms, offer a promising strategy for ending the tragic waste of our most important resource -- people. They are our best hope for using the people dynamic to create a more dynamic people throughout the earth.

Additional Reading -- Training Change Agents

Social Change:

Bennett, Thomas R., II, The Leader and the Process of Change. New York: Association Press, 1962.

Bennis, Warren; Benne, Kenneth; and Chin, Robert (Eds.), The Planning of Change. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1961.

Bonthius, Robert H., "Training Clergymen to Change Community Structures," in Community Mental Health, The Role of Church and Temple, H.. J. Clinebell, Jr. (Ed.). Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1970. pp. 41 ff.

Brody, Ralph and Cremer, Kay, Organizing for Social Change, A Case Study Approach. Cleveland Cleveland State University, 1970.

Lippitt, Ronald; Watson, Jeanne; and Westley, Bruce, The Dynamics Of Planned Change. New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1958.

Sanford, Nevitt, Self and Society, Social Change and Individual Development. New York: Atherton Press, 1966.

Schein, E. and Bellnis, W., Personal and Organizational Change Through Group Methods. New York: Wiley, 1965.

Seifert, Harvcy, and Clinebell, H. J., Jr., Personal Growth and Social Change.Philadelphia: Wcstrninster Press, 1969. A guide for ministers and laymen as change agents.

Ecology:

Ehrlich, Paul R. and Anne H., Population, Resources, Environment: Issues in Human Ecology. San Francisco: W. H. Freeman and Co., 1970

Eiseley, Loren C., The Immense Journey. New York: Random House, 1957.

IDOC, "A Theology of Survival" September, 1970.

Imsland, Donald, Celebrate the Earth. Minneapolis: Augsburg Pub lishing House, 1971.

Johnson, Huey (Ed.), No Deposit-No Return, Man and His Environ ment: A View Toward Survival. Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley Publishing Co., 1970.

Rienow, Robert and Leona, Moment in the Sun. New York: Ballantine Books, 1967.

Udall, Stewart L., The Quiet Crisis. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1963.

 

 

References,

1. The Wisdom of Martin Luther King, edited by the staff of Bill Adler Books (New York: Lancer Books, 1968), pp. 85, 99.

2. Sumner B. Norris, et al., "Encounter in Higher Education," in Burton Encounter, pp. 200-201.

3. For a more detailed discussion of these phases of change, see Harvey Seifert and H. J. Clinebell, Jr., Personal Growth and Social Change, Chap.4, "The Process of Growth and Change."

4. This project was funded by the Irwin-Sweeny-Miller Foundatio through the School of Theology at Claremont, Calif.

5. In another workshop one participant reported that he was touchedpowerfully by this experience, "finding a dislike of black skin and feelings of white superiority that I really didn't think I had."

6. Thomas R. Bennett II, "Project Laity: Groups and Social Action, The Creative Role of Interpersonal Groups in the Church Today, John Casteel (Ed.), p. 66.

7. George B. Leonard, "How to Have a Bloodless Riot," Look, June 10, 1969, p. 26, The other two quotes are from p. 28 and p. 25. In their racial confrontation groups Cobbs and Leonard have not discovered a Black who isn't angry or a White who isn't prejudiced.

8. This series was developed by Bill Johnson and Caddy Jackson, of the Sehool of Theology at Claremont, working with the education task force of Project Understanding in the San Diego area.

9. "The Business Community Has No Higher Priority . . . Than Strengthening of Family Life," FSAA, 1968, p. 24. See also Family Service Highlights, Sept./Nov., 1965, pp. 26-27.

10. "Generation Gap: Opportunity Lever," The Churchman, Aug./Sept., 1970, p. 6.

11. John A. Day, "Ecosystem: Key Word for the 70's," Faculty Forum, March, 1970, p. 1.

12. The Churchman, March, 1969 (Cover).

13. The Divine Milieu, New York: Harper & Row, 1960, p. 89.

14. Stewart Udall, The Quiet Crisis (New York: Avon Books, 1964), p. 55.

15. Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Claremont, Calif.; Sam Emerick, Director of the Yokefellow Center in Indiana, led the group.

16. Ehrlich and Ehrlich, Population, Resources,Environment.

17. Imsland, Celebrate the Earth, p. 41.

 

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