From Dave: Chip has fun further reflections on stage theory. We've been on kind of a stage-theory binge recently, so I think we'll make this our last post on the topic for at least a little while. But I'll look forward to hearing your thoughts!
My wife Laura and I were discussing stage theory the other day and she was expressing concern that stage theory itself may be too simplistic, and that it could also be employed to label and judge others. "Wow, my friend Margaret is so stage 2!" "Can you believe how stage 3 Frank is?" These seemed like good concerns to me as I myself am no fan of simplistic thinking (or judging others for that matter).
Finally she asked me directly: "Well what stage do you think you are primarily in?"
Remembering how Peck says we usually have a hand or foot in each of the stages, that none of us are purely in only one, I began thinking about how this might play out within me in real life. (Plus this line of thinking was a good stalling tactic to help avoid answering the question with the ever-humble "I'm obviously and squarely stage 4 all-the-way sweetheart.")
So if we really do have different "stages" at work within us at any given time how does that play out in our actual daily lives? Do we perhaps respond to different situations in ways that could be identified? Is my thinking in regard to my work stage 2, my church stage 3, while my thinking toward my family is mostly stage 1?
Or let's take for example any situation I am faced with during my day, perhaps something that elicits a response of some kind from me. Here is a rough draft of different possible responses aligned with the possible stage they may be closely identified with:
- Stage 1 - I scheme to get my way with little thought or concern for others. Perhaps I ignore a situation entirely if it doesn't really promise a potential payoff for me personally.
- Stage 2 - I react with simplistic thinking, with too much undeserved certainty. Or maybe I parrot back what I've been taught with little thought as to whether this really fits the situation well. I try to find the right box to force-fit the situation into.
- Stage 3 - I react with aversion, something protective in me is triggered and I take offense. I don't offer any real thoughtful productive suggestions or solutions but rather I muckrake and pick apart the existing systems and structures.
- Stage 4 - I respond thoughtfully and prayerfully to the situation. I get involved if led to get involved regardless of what may or may not be in it for me. I become quickly aware of selfish, simplistic, or reactionary thoughts within me and when they arise I confess them and try to restrain them from damaging my ability to serve the situation healthfully.
We've applied stage theory recently to as broad a topic as entire centuries of human history, is it time we brought it back in to how it works out within each of us in our daily lives?