Positive Deviance

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.


  1. I am a stander too and ran across your blog by mistake. I was going to http://www.rejoiceministries.com and must have typed the web address wrong and ended up on a google search page. I was curious and clicked on the link to your blog. I guess I just wanted to let you know that I am encouraged by your strength and I will say a prayer for you and your family this week. I have been fortunate to meet another stander… well actually we have never met personally. I heard of her and I called and we have prayed together and encouraged each other this past year. Even though we are miles apart, I am in Florida and she is in Tennessee, we are with each other in spirit. No one else knows how I feel except another stander! So I wanted to let you know that I know your pain… that emptiness because someone very crucial to your life, to your whole being, is missing. For me, it is a groaning within my soul that walks through each day with me. And while my inner joy that comes from my relationship with Christ cannot be suppressed, there is still a profound sadness. God has seen me through this very difficult trial, and though my husband has remarried I will continue to wait on God and have faith because He who promised IS faithful! My husband will come home one day and our family will be restored! Isn’t God good? And yet, what I desire even more than the restoration of my family and yours, is that God would use us in a mighty way to bring truth to His Church about the sanctity of marriage and the delusion of divorce. What we as a Church need is a revival.. that our hearts would truly be turned to God and we we would live our lives in obedience to Him. God bless you “Sister Stander” and know that I am standing with you! My e-mail is rainrain@tampabay.rr.com and phone is (813)716-3997.

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