You Can’t Build on Broken

When we look at what’s wrong first, we start from a negative perspective, a negative mindset of what went awry, what expectations we didn’t meet, who caused this failure.  The first act is often to determine blame. Focusing on the negative is the path of least resistance.

What if, instead, we build on what is right; what is working? When we start with what is working, we focus on the positive, on opportunities, on how things have been solved.  We create energy and passion to really make a difference.  The positive mindset expands, not limits, opportunities.

“People deal too much with the negative, what is wrong…. Why not try and see positive things, to just touch those things and make them bloom.”- Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk and peace activist.

I am watching a bush recover in our front yard these past two years.  While plowing the driveway after a snow storm, a decent size limb broke off.  Nature is not directly plugging the gap or building on what is broken; instead the other branches around that hole are expanding and filling the void.

I’ve done a similar thing in coaching football, where due to injuries and lack of talent we had a weak defensive back who despite previous coaching didn’t improve.  Instead of continuing with additional coaching and building on what is broken, we plugged the gap by improving our pass rush and creating coverage options to fill the void and not expose the weakness.

“You can’t build on broken” was coined by Angela Blanchard, president and CEO of Neighborhood Centers Inc., a globally recognized expert practitioner in community development.  When we think of poverty we are conditioned to focus on what is lacking and broken. We come from a mindset that those in material poverty are fundamentally broken, with so many problems they need us to “fix.” There is another way.  When Jesus healed people, he would often say, “Your faith has healed you.” He looked inside people, saw goodness and possibility; not someone broken. A key to overcoming poverty is developing the gifts and assets of people and communities amidst poverty, rather than just focusing on the problems.

“The Lord works from the inside out.  The world works from the outside in.  The world would take people out of the slums.  Christ takes the slum out of the people and then they take themselves out of the slums.  The world would mold men by changing their environment.  Christ changes men, who change their environment.  The world shapes human behavior, but Christ can change human nature.”- Ezra Taft Benson

Think about our society today. Why do many of our Government fixes to big systemic problems (i.e. education, healthcare) not work?  Government takes the broadest approach and the one of least effort, by looking at how things have not worked. Pointing out failures is easier and can more quickly rally public opinion.  This is why the philosophy of local government (state, city, town) is more effective, as it is closer to the issue and can see the positives to nurture.

In Paul’s letter to the Romans, he states, “Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.” Renew your mind, don’t try and build on the existing broken mind – renew it first. 

A first step to improvement or renewing the mind is to eliminate the negative or what is broken.  Consider your financial health; if you don’t stop spending beyond your means, how can you build your wealth.  Or your physical well-being; if you don’t stop overeating or eating the wrong things, how can you improve your health. You can’t out exercise a bad diet.

Parenting from a positive perspective is shown to have better results; company performance reviews are more effective when they are about coaching and not criticizing.  Be a light shining a path for others, not a judge who sees other’s shortcomings; be a model for others to emulate. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”- Martin Luther King Jr.

Christians have been given the gift of free will, our own exercise of good judgment, to build our daily life upon. No longer do we offer animal sacrifices to atone for what we did wrong.  We are called to build on our gifts and talents; to create energy and passion; to touch things and make them bloom for Christ and each other.

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