Helen Haste Quote on Generations and Measuring Change

Earlier this month, I got to spend a few days with Andrew Jones (TallSkinnyKiwi), one of my favorite people. We’ve been friends going on 15 years now, and it’d been a few years since we were last in the same world region at the same time. This time, it was attending The Feast, a conference on social entrepreneurship in New York City, with other missional pioneers involved with Matryoshka Haus. (More of an update on this international network another time. If you’re interested in its roots, see my posts in the category on the Training Trail and Doxology. This is the same network, just a newer name.) (P.S. Andrew probably had more extensive blogging about The Feast than anyone else there. Check out his series of posts from October 1, 2009, for more details on some very informative TED-style presentations.)

While at The Feast, I mentioned a quote on generational changes and paradigm shifts. Andrew deftly whittled it down to a line of a mere 140 characters and Tweeted it. It may have been the most reTweeted item from the event. He also posted this condensed version on his blog: “You measure change, not by behaviors altered in the first generation, but by what the next generation takes as a given.”

Anyway, that paraphrase got a lotta buzz, and the full quote is even better. In case people are interested in the quote I use about generations and change, and the original source, here it is:

In the long run, what counts is how the next generation thinks. How far new ideas permeate culture is not measured just by attitude change during one generation, but by what is taken for granted in the next.

~ Helen Haste, page 149 in The Sexual Metaphor: Men, Women, and the Thinking that Makes the Difference (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1994, ISBN 0-674-80282-9)

Ms. Haste used that statement to begin a chapter on”The Next Generation” (i.e., the “post-feminist” generations), whose members grew up not having to fight the social and political battles of the feminist movement in the 1960s and ’70s especially, but who inherited the results of those who did. Since these younger generations of women and men live in a world that takes feminism as a given, what does that mean?

Whether we approve the worldviews and agendas of feminism or not, if we want to understand the context of the world we now live in, we’ve got to grapple with what is really there and not just with what we believe should ideally be there. If we don’t choose to contextualize for that real world, we shouldn’t really complain when everyday people are repulsed by our presence and/or presentation. We can’t blame their responses totally on their spiritual blindness when we prove ourselves to be culturally blind, can we?

If you are interested in seeing how I used this quote in the context of church transitions, check out my post from June 2008 on Paradigm Transition: Do we have just 25 years to do this? From a futurist / culturologist / research and development perspective, I suggest that non-missional churches may have a remaining shelf-life of less than 25 years … So, how will you seek to shift your organizational culture so that the next generations of disciples in your church/gathering/group will take a missional mindset as a given?

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UPDATE 2017. This series of two posts may be of interest, as it expands on the idea of taking the long view about social change, and shares some personal background that affects how I view these issues.

Political Season 2016 ~ Post 2A: Taking the Long View on Changing Roles for Women in the Civic Square, Part 1.

Political Season 2016 ~ Post 2B: Taking the Long View on Changing Roles for Women in the Civic Square, Part 2.


2 thoughts on “Helen Haste Quote on Generations and Measuring Change

    • Hey Len, thanx for dropping in! Love this quote – found it in the mid-1990s and have used it since. She says it far better than I ever could …

      Things are progressing with projects, but what an … odd? adventurous? scary? all-of-the-above? … year this has been. And yet, a strong sense that God is watching over me and providing what is needed, as it is needed. Guess God invented the just-in-time inventorying system, eh?


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