The P/E/O exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, part I: Champions grow through imitation, not flattery or need-based appeals

I’ve been reading Tim Muldoon’s book on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. Some great insights therein that have real bearing on the Participation/Engagement/Ownership process which is at the heart of the Transformational Giving (TG) model.

Consider Ignatius on the impact that imitation can make in coaching or champions.

Originally quite the war hero and not quite that much of a Christian, Ignatius (or Inigo, as Muldoon refers to him below) suffered a devastating leg injury that required re-breaking and extensive recuperation in order to heal correctly. Bored from sitting around month after month, Inigo eventually turned to reading the biographies of great Christians.

Writes Muldoon:

Inigo confronted his spiritual pain and realized that it was pointing him toward a real life change. By the end of his recovery period, he was thinking about how he could take his energy, which had previously been about glorifying himself, and use it to glorify God. He writes about his desire to do stupendous acts for God, like a kind of spiritual hero. If he read of a certain saint’s strict spiritual practices, Inigo thought about how he could go one step further.

We’ll talk more in our next post about how Inigo moved beyond the spiritual superhero stage, but today what’s worth noting is this:

We nonprofits fail to recognize that the greatest spur to growth of a champion in a particular cause is seeing, hearing, and experiencing the growth of another champion in relation to that cause.

TG Principle Number 7 says, “The relationship between champion and champion is as important as the relationship between champion and organization.”

Sadly, in most nonprofits there is no relationship between champion and champion for all intents and purposes. And yet history and modern psychology amply testify that if we want to coach a person toward growth in a particular cause, the best way to do so is to show them that growth in a person to whom they can relate.

Randy Maddox notes that John Wesley saw this approach as core to his method of making disciples:

[R]ecognizing the role of “life-narratives” in forming and expressing one’s worldview, he particularly exhorted his Methodists to live in the story of Christ, and the stories of exemplary Christians (a rich set of which he provided for their reading), so that their orienting narrative might be reshaped in keeping with the pattern of Christ.

What’s more, a recent study by the Association for Psychological Science indicates that “witnessing uplifting behavior may spur good deeds“:

In an experiment, researchers recruited volunteers who watched a “neutral” video clip of scenes from a nature documentary or a clip from “The Oprah Winfrey Show” in which musicians thanked their mentors. The participants then wrote essays about what they watched, were paid for their time and asked to indicate whether they’d want to take part in another study.

Those who saw the Oprah Winfrey clip were more likely to volunteer to take part in another study.

The positive, uplifting emotion that makes people feel good and may inspire them to help others is known as “elevation,” the researchers explained in a news release about the experiment from the Association for Psychological Science.

In another experiment, participants watched one of the previous two clips or a third clip from a British comedy. Afterwards, a research assistant said she was having trouble opening a computer file connected to the study, and told the volunteers that they were free to leave, but as they exited she asked the participants if they would be willing to fill out a boring questionnaire for another study.

Volunteers who watched the Oprah Winfrey clip spent almost twice as long helping the assistant as those who watched the other clips, the researchers noted.

The study authors concluded that “by eliciting elevation, even brief exposure to other individuals’ prosocial behavior motivates altruism, thus potentially providing an avenue for increasing the general level of prosociality in society.”

So explain to me again why it is that when it comes to the champions of our own causes, we nonprofits “divide and conquer” them, relying upon our own (limited) relationship with them and our own ability to tug on their heartstrings with urgent appeals and stories of individuals needing help in order to prompt them to respond…instead of exposing them to other champions whose lives embody the very change we are seeking to coach them to make?

About Pastor Foley

The Reverend Eric Foley is CEO and Co-Founder, with his wife Dr. Hyun Sook Foley, of Voice of the Martyrs Korea, supporting the work of persecuted Christians in North Korea and around the world and spreading their discipleship practices worldwide. He is also the International Ambassador for the International Christian Association, the global fellowship of Voice of the Martyrs sister ministries. Pastor Foley is a much sought after speaker, analyst, and project consultant on the North Korean underground church, North Korean defectors, and underground church discipleship. He and Dr. Foley oversee a far-flung staff across Asia that is working to help North Koreans and Christians everywhere grow to fullness in Christ. He is presently a candidate for the Doctor of Management at Case Western Reserve University's Weatherhead School of Management in Cleveland, Ohio.
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2 Responses to The P/E/O exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, part I: Champions grow through imitation, not flattery or need-based appeals

  1. Pingback: The P/E/O exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, part II: Why it’s dangerous to get stuck at P « Transformational Giving

  2. Pingback: Imitation is How Humans Learn to Give. So Why are Churches and Nonprofits Doing Away With It? | Rev. Eric Foley

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