It was Winston Churchill (not Rahm Emanuel) who first said, “Never let a crisis go to waste.”
We try to avoid such things, but I have noticed they often have power to bring needed change in places where we had given up on it.
Sometimes needed change fizzles once the urgent moment fades. Muscle memory kicks in and the lesson is lost. But other times that wrecking ball we feared crushes things that needed to come down—things that had us trapped where we thought life would be found.
The Mandarin character for crisis combines two words: opportunity and danger. Consider these two sides of crisis so that you don’t let a crisis go to waste.
What can be gained?
Picture a circus elephant tethered to a simple stake in the sand. A young elephant is not strong enough to pull it up. Over time it becomes conditioned to stay put even after gaining the physical strength to break loose. One small act can free him from this mental prison: light his tent on fire.
Crisis can light your tent on fire. You can see what really matters amidst the clutter. Or think of it this way—the urgency launches us to a new perspective like one of those tower of terror rides at Disney. For a moment, we rise above the heap. What seemed too mammoth on one day can become our chief priority the next day—like an apology or forgiveness.
The elephant breaks free. The impossible can become possible. In other words, sometimes crisis has the power to get you unstuck.
In our American affluence, too much unnecessary clutter has a hold on us. The clutter of the unnecessary can make it hard to discern what is truly, deeply necessary. In a crisis, necessary things emerge.
What can be lost?
This COVID-19 pandemic has top medical pros spooked, and for good reason. Some people are panicked and others just annoyed by all the reaction. We need to settle down for a while and heed advice that will slow the spread so we don’t overwhelm our medical system.
But this too shall pass. We will be looking back on this season sooner rather than later.
In the middle of it, don’t miss what might become possible right now, even if (at the moment) it seems to be coming at you like wrecking ball or lit a match.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3: 5-6