I’m taking a class this quarter called “Management of Information Services.” In it, we have to do a group project and present a management tool. My group chose Positive Deviance.
Positive Deviance focuses on people who act outside the norm–on the positive side. “Deviance is generally viewed as a bad thing. But on one end of the curve, we find deviance in the form of excellence, the very behavior we want to promote.”–Robert Quinn, interviewed by Dennis Sparks in “Change: It’s a Matter of Life or Slow Death,” Journal of Staff Development, 22 (4), p. 49.
As I was reading the article above for background material, it struck me that positive deviance applies to marriages!
That morning, I read a quotation that struck me in A New Kind of Normal, by Carole Kent: Paul and Silas’s discipline of praying and praising not only broke their own chains, but it also broke the chains of every other inmate in the prison.”–quoting Karen Beck, p. 98.
I thought of that passage when I read this in the Quinn interview: “When we have successfully experienced a deep change, it inspires us to encourage others to undergo a similar experience. We are all potential change agents. As we discipline our talents, we deepen our perceptions about what is possible. … We must continually choose between deep change or slow death.”
Continuing: “So now when people say something can’t be done, I ask for examples of positive deviance. But people are often uncomfortable with these notions because they suggest that we all have the potential to do things that many claim are impossible.
“To tie all of this together, if we are not growing, we are dying. And if we are growing and pushing the edges of the system, we will meet great resistance. And yet it is possible for us to be positive deviants, and positive deviants change the world.”
“When people become empowered, they realize that they had put constraints upon themselves. Suddenly, they are able to do all kinds of things we previously thought were impossible.”
How does this relate to marriage?
Well, if I look around at the norm in America, a marriage as far gone as mine is surely doomed.
But why should I copy the norm? Wouldn’t I rather imitate the positive deviants, the people who have succeeded in healing and restoring their marriages, with God’s help? They have done exactly the thing that seems impossible.
Positive deviance tells us that if you want excellence, find those who are acting with excellence and imitate them.
That’s why I choose to follow the example of the good people at http://www.rejoiceministries.org/, and choose to stand for my marriage, and choose to trust God. Truly, He can do the impossible. As more and more of us choose to rise above the norm, this positive deviance can spread. We can see the power of God to heal.
I know that marital healing after severe hurts is NOT impossible–because people like Bob and Charlyne Steinkamp have shown me what can happen when you put your marriage into God’s hands. I’d rather imitate people like that.