Is it time to change your house or change your beliefs?

October 23, 2011

Change your house or change your beliefsThe first couple of meetings we have together, clients often want to vent about their organization. Each time it has a slightly different flavor, but the commonality is striking. So many of them struggle with the cultural fit.

When I was younger, I went to synagogue because I was asked and expected to. It wasn’t a good cultural fit. The level of bitterness I experienced as a child around my Jewish upbringing would sound to you like a diatribe from a Woody Allen movie.

I went so far as to carve up a sacred book once, so that I could store toys in it. I learned that trick from an espionage novel, I think, and I would play with the hidden toys surreptitiously with my friends during the service. As I grew older, I simply stopped attending. I love my heritage, but I left my religion at my childhood doorstep…until my wife Chris recently decided to convert to Judaism.

Two weeks ago, my daughters and I joined Chris for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services. We are not a household of in-authenticity; we all shared with Chris we were not there for the services but for her because she is always showing up for each of us. While I was there, my childhood resentment and bitterness returned. Then, in a moment, it dawned on me. I am in their house, their place of worship, and I must give deference to them, the congregation. It is their culture and I ought to appreciate the generosity and welcome they’ve shown me, a virtual stranger.

You can change your house or change your beliefs.

I’m in the process of changing my beliefs, not so much that I’m in-authentic, but enough to sit comfortably with Chris in synagogue.

If you’re uncomfortable in your current “house” or organization, it helps to vent. Get it out of your system, but then decide: Do you want to change your house or your beliefs? Leaving your organization may not be as easy as it was for me, as a teen, to leave my religion because you may have competing obligations and values–paying bills, providing for your family, etc. But if you choose or resign yourself to stay, modify your beliefs so that you can peacefully coexist within the culture. You can modify your beliefs and still be totally authentic to yourself. Your beliefs are pliable; it just takes time, effort, and desire.

Is it time to change your house or change your beliefs?

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