From the tech world, a short article by Michael Lopp in The Magazine (a brand new iOS subscription magazine from Marco Ament, free trial available) offers an interesting perspective on the role of fear in transforming people from risk-takers (“Volatiles”) to control-freaks (“Stables”):
The birth of a successful 1.0 is a war with convention and common sense. It is built around a handful of Volatiles who believe that “We can bring this new thing into the world,” and no one believes them. It’s excruciating, and the majority of Volatiles who embark on this quest will fail, but if and when success arrives, those who survive are scarred and weary. More importantly, they are intimately aware of the cost to get here and they want to protect it. [...] This is how a perfectly respectable and disruptive Volatile transforms into a Stable.
There are plenty of interesting parallels for ministry here. For the purposes of this article, Michael Lopp (rightly, I think) isn’t concerned with judging the motives of power and control among people in the entrepreneurial tech startup – but he certainly does shed some light on what at least some of those motives are rooted in.
It’s not an uncommon observation that institutions grow entrenched because people want to protect their power, but Lopp acknowledges at least two things that are helpful: 1) Some people are just wired to be more cautious, and 2) Some people who used to take more risks (have more faith?) have become protective because of trauma.
Why is this helpful? Well, partly because it’s a more sympathetic perspective – we don’t tend to recognize that big institutions and bigger-than-life leaders can be controlling because they’re fearful – and partly because it’s a good mirror for examining our own desires for power and control.